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What It Means To Be Black In America, "Black Like Me"
5/6/2015 3:44:11 PM

Jeremy Darby with his artwork “Still We Overcome” (photo by Joel Woodhall)

“Ancestral Trees” - artwork by Scott Williams (photo by Joel Woodhall)

Artwork from photography series “Pyramids x Gardens” by Samira Owens (photo by Joel Woodhall)

Artwork from photography series “Pyramids x Gardens” by Samira Owens (photo by Joel Woodhall)
By Joel Woodhall, Chronicle Intern

Black Like Me, which was an African American themed art exhibition, set out to truly depict what it means to be black in America.  The controversial art show was held last Friday and Saturday, at the Tua Lingua Art Studio in North Charleston.  Black Like Me was a stand-alone event and not associated with the North Charleston Arts Festival.
The Black Like Me art exhibition could possibly be the most controversial art show held in all of Charleston this week, with its African American artist theme.  Attracting a very diverse crowd of around 150 people the first night, one thing was clear:  there was a demand for an art show like this.  
With the controversial name comes the controversial artwork as well, such as Jeremy Darby’s Kissing Klansman art piece, which pokes fun at history, featuring two KKK members kissing underneath a hanging noose.
Tua Lingua, which was founded by lead organizer, Nathan Petro, teamed up with artist Jeremy Darby, back in January, to create the show.  Their goal was to have an artistic outlet for African American artists in the local area.  The philosophy behind Tua Lingua: if you think you’re an artist, then you’re welcome here.
Jeremy Darby, 28, of West Ashley, curated the African American themed art show.  By early February, Darby had the title in hand; Black Like Me.  The show hosted 14 of Charleston’s African American artists, some who have shown their work before, many who have not.  “Most artists do not show their art.  This is a way to bring out the black artists for Charleston to see,” Darby explains.
Nathan Petro, 38, of North Charleston, owns and operates Tua Lingua with his fiancé and co-organizer, Jennifer Walker.  Petro is a seasoned entrepreneur, not only owning the art studio but also owning his own local swimming pool business.   Petro explains to me the inspiration behind opening Tua Lingua back in July of 2014, “If you are an artist and you have no place to go, here, you have a place.”  Petro and Walker, who have a strong passion for arts and music, both say the studio was born out of necessity.  

Still We Overcome
Jeremy Darby is an artist as well.  The logo for Black Like Me originated from his own artwork, Still We Overcome.  This patriotic piece of art combines the historical context of the mid 1950s with the modern civil rights movements of 2015.  Looking at the artwork, you’ll find the American Civil Rights activist icon Dr. Martin Luther King with his wife and mother.  Below that, Darby brings MLK to life during his famous 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, reading the words “We Shall Overcome.”  The third layer of the art showcases history in the making; Americas current stand on the Civil Rights movement.  Darby graciously shows me his sketchbook of the art while it was in progress, “The protesters are real people in this piece, the protesters signs are real also.”

Underground Artists
The artists that made up the show included photographers, graphic designers, painters, and poets.  Many of the artists have never shown their artwork in a gallery setting.
Artist Scott Williams, who created the Ancestral Trees piece in 2011, says, “As a black person, you want to express yourself.”  He continued explaining, “Art is universal.  It is a way of speaking to everyone.”  Williams art piece is a textured black man with broken shackles around his wrists and neck, who is looking into an African field with Acacia Trees off in the distance, with tree like whip markings on his back.  Williams has never shown his artwork in Charleston before.  
Christopher “CJ” Johnson said this, too, was his first time showing artwork in a gallery.  “I feel like the most blessed man in the world,” CJ tells me as people praise his work at the exhibit.  CJ can be found downtown, at the city market, creating speed art in his free time.
Latasha Hollins, who is a local art educator of 11 years, says she likes to show some of her artwork at least once a year.  Hollins artwork, Stolen Native Tongue, which she presented this week, was the voice for the local Gullah people.  She explained that it represents the native tongue for the slaves who were brought to America through Charleston.
Samira Owens, 22, who is a photographer and graphic designer, presented a series of photographs named Pyramids x Gardens.  This, too, was her first art gallery showing.   “As a black artist, this is an outlet to express how we feel,” Owens explains.  “The open forum art show is an outlet that incorporates more expression from the community.”
More Than Just Wall Decorations
The two-day event was more than just a physical art show.  During the show, two guest poetry speakers from Spoken Word Spartanburg came down to express their thoughts on current events in the form of word art.  Lindsey Stevens, 20, says she stands for all activism.  “Poetry saves lives, art saves lives,” Stevens tells me with a smile.  “Not only does art bring people together, but so do issues.”  Stevens was grateful to be at the event to share her poems and happy that the crowd was so responsive to them.  “I’m speechless, I feel very welcome and warm inside.”
Tua Lingua is an artist space and flexible community center.  It is located at the corner of Dorchester Road and W. Surrey Drive, across from the Gerald’s Tires.  Nathan Petro can be reached at (843) 303-3778 or [email protected].  Find Tua Lingua on Facebook at
You can purchase a print of Jeremy Darby’s 'Still We Overcome' artwork at Find Darby on Facebook at


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