Shayna Jeffers, 25
42nd St between Park and Lexington Aves.
Mon Mar 15 2010
Photograph: Jay Muhlin
What do you do? I work for a leadership development nonprofit called LEDA. It deals with high-school juniors on a national level. I also run a grassroots organization called More Black Art About More Black Ish.
Are you an artist? Not really. Though I do collage work using high-fashion magazines.
About black ish? No, actually. High-fashion magazines rarely have black models—I wouldn't generate much work that way. [Laughs] I play with composition and color.
Clearly, your goal is to become a millionaire. I know. But see, that's what getting married is all about. [Laughs]
Do you feel like black artists should be making art about being black? It's a hard question. I don't create black art, but I identify as a black person and I support black art. As much as we'd like to say that everything is color-blind and an artist should just be an artist and not a black artist...
Do you think white artists can make art about black issues? They can...but I mean, at the end of the day, it's all about white endorsement, regardless. Any black artist really requires backing by influential people, who for the most part are white.
Every successful black artist has a powerful white person behind him? [Laughs] Yeah, I mean, God, people are going to throw things at me in the street. But that's what I think.
More from Shayna
"I just went out to get a wheatgrass shot. Is it all placebo? No, no. In the beginning, it is; you think it has to be working because there's grass in your mouth. But after a while your liver doesn't want to kill you anymore."
"My sister and I just visited my great-aunt, who's 80. She gave me lots of stuff, including this blazer and some jewelry."
"My great-grandmother and her siblings moved to New York from Barbados in the late '20s. They settled in Bed-Stuy—my family still has houses there that my cousins live in. When we were living with my great-grandmother in the late '80s, she still used a potty—this little pan that she would keep under her bed. I mean, she was illiterate and from the country in Barbados."