We value art of the times. Of the vulnerable, the raw, the honest. We uplift those brave ones who surrender to uncertainty through the process of creation. We are a community of makers, processing fear, grief, joy and love in times of quarantine.
My uncle has a habit of giving me gifts, even though he’s dead.
He’s a wand maker, you see, winding crystals within spools of copper. Touch one, and you just might see the world a little clearer. When I first met him, I was afraid. His eyes were sharp and watery like diamonds in a riverbank, his dreadlocks dark and prophetic. The relics of time were written across his face, and you could almost see the mystic runes rolling around in his mind. He seemed strange, otherworldly, all the things my father and my Catholic upbringing taught me to fear. Little was it known that he would have the most profound impact on my millennial life.
The next time I saw him, I was a teenager. Exploring myself and the world, it was the year I began the endless process of coming out. At first I only told my closest friends, my cousin, and then my aunt. She suggested I tell her husband. And what did he say?
"Rohan, I knew the day you were born that you were gay. You came out the womb and I knew." Thus, in all his wizardly wisdom, he took it upon himself to give me “the talk,” that thing so many parents dread. He was simple and to the point, no sugar coating whatsoever. The talk went like this: "Rohan, men will fuck anything. If there is a hole and it is willing, a man will put his dick in it, okay? Men will fuck a tree."
Great talk, Uncle David *sigh*…great talk.
From then on, I learned magic. I took a wand embossed in copper and learned the deep purposes meant for me, all thanks to this weird old man who had no problem traumatizing his sixteen year old nephew about men and sex. Looking back, I now know what a gift it was to have that kind of love from a Black man in such a hateful world.
I clung to his advice, his wisdom, his guidance. They still ring true. The last time I saw him, he said I must surround myself with smart people, people who could survive. “We are headed into dark times,” he murmured.
Shortly thereafter, he joined the ancestors. Gone, with a sick and bitter disease in his throat.
The day he died of cancer, the earth cried. A heavy rain lashed Chicago, even though he lived in New York. I left early from work that made me miserable. Without an umbrella, I walked to the Red Line. It was down. Shit. I would have to take the 22 from Division to Devon. I, like every other Chicagoan, love that 24 hour Clark Street bus, but that was a damn long ride. Numb, I only took it halfway, stepping into Andersonville, a neighborhood with cute shops and restaurants that resembles a fairy tale. The rain had mercifully let off, turning into a drizzle, and I walked, wandering up the long and weary road.
Suddenly, a bird cut through the mist. It flew straight into the Women & Children bookstore. I followed it, not knowing why. I had never seen fantasy books there, my favorite genre, so why bother? But the bird landed on a shelf, beckoning me with a cocked head. My jaw dropped. Right before me was N. K. Jemisin’s fantasy The Fifth Season, which soon became my favorite book of all time. That little bird reminded me, just before it took off, that even in dark times we can still find pockets of magic. We just have to look.
Later that year, I lost my shitty job, and the landlord was kicking us out. I had to move in with my mom and my aunt in New York.
New York, that dismal grey city where no one really seems happy to me.
My first year sucked: no money for myself or to see my friends; no majestic walks through snow-capped parks; no days I could marvel at the sun, the sky or the moon while wandering alone on the beach. I had nothing to make my world wondrous or mysterious. I hated this city, and I’m sure most of me still does. I became sick, so sick I couldn’t move parts of my body. What was going on? Why was I here? When could I go home? There was no magic in this place.
One day, I was hobbling around the apartment, miserable and alone, when I spotted something floor. Strange, that hadn’t been there before. It was a ring, comprised of four coils of copper. An apparition, a gift.
Thanks Uncle David.
With that ring, magic came back into my life, all through the hospital visits, and finally when I could walk and dance again.
I wear that ring during every day of this crisis, because it remains a lesson of faith. Faith, remembering all our sadness and trials, and the hopes and dreams that beat them. It teaches us that we have to keep on. We have to look for the magic in the hidden corners, the unseen pockets of space, so that we can heal ourselves, overcome this virus, and fix our very, very broken world.
Color Tag Magazine is a photography publication devoted to the exploration of life, art, and connection. The magazine was created with the intention of fostering connection between photographers through response-based photo series and themed exhibitions.
Current offerings for our online galleries:
Color Tag: a collaborative series where photographers will create a new image in response to another artist's image with the intention of creating a visual conversation.
Colors of Quarantine: Highlighting photographic works created during quarantine.
The Sky We See: Call for sky photographs and images depicting our relationship to the sky.