Meet Anti-Racism Writer/Photojournalism-Activist, Johnny Silvercloud
And learn how he’s using photography to counter “historical revisionism”
I’m thrilled to introduce you to Johnny Silvercloud today. Not only is he a powerful writer, but he is an excellent photographer, who’s been out in the streets capturing the movement for social justice and racial equity. Please meet Johnny.
Photo credit: Johnny Silvercloud
1) Johnny, you describe yourself as an anti-racism writer/photojournalism-activist. What led you to this role?
When it comes to what made me become an anti-racism writer/photojournalism-activist, I believe it was the thousands of racial microaggressions. I got tired of witnessing things and not being able to properly explain what just occurred.
It would be a white friend--who considered me a best friend--who had a problem with white women dating a Black man speaking as if that woman is forever soiled. It would be a white guy standing up putting his hat on backwards aggressively mocking a freestyle contest with unworldly disdain. It would be how white people are hyper-vigilant in over-correcting an ask-axe merger when a Black person says it, but doesn't do so let alone hear it at all when white people say the same thing. That white person will never condescendingly over-correct a white person from let's say, Tennessee, who was a pen-pin merger in their dialect, though. It's noticing we know all their fears, irrational or not, and they don't respect ours (as Black people).
I noticed the silencing of Black people, how Black people walk on egg-shells. When I stopped and realized how much of our Black lives we dedicate to coddling white feelings, I began reading a lot. Then, I began writing a lot. Back then, I was in the U.S. Army, so I sought out things like Equal Opportunity Leader Course, and SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response/Prevention) Course. I wanted to be better at explaining, or debating these things. I wanted to cut the bull like a matador.
One of the other things I noticed was the fact that there were so many Black bodies dedicated to providing defense and smokescreen in furtherance to a white supremacist cause. I wondered how come there are so many Black people defending white supremacy, but so few white people defending Black people. There's at least a hundred Candace Owens' to a single Tim Wise. Why? So I got to work, with the firm intent on aiding and assisting white people in having the courage and skillset to argue against white supremacy devoid of Black folks watching. I assessed that we need white people to stop engaging in performative actions, and dedicate their time to reparative actions.
2) What response have you had?
The response was mixed. From that point, navigating white fragility was another skill to nurture. The push-back was, and still is, expected. Very few are accepting of this sociological position. Very few white people appreciate anti-racism writers and speakers like us. In addition to that, even Black people have a hard time accepting and understanding what we are saying. A Black person's position against anti-racism work comes from a different place than whites. A Black person against anti-racism work comes from the position of safety by way of upholding, protecting and defending white supremacy. Anyone, regardless of race, defends white supremacy is rewarded in life in America. Those who oppose it, are punished, silenced, demolished.
Even further, there are pro-Black types who don't like what I do. Many pro-Black types hate the notion of explaining to whites. Someone has to do it.
3) I know you’re a photographer. How important is this in your anti-racism activism?
Photography is important, because one of the things I've identified in the tactics of white supremacy is this thing I call "narrative control" and "historical revisionism." Both of these concepts do the same thing, just one deals with the past and the other deals with the present. Both are dangerous because they function as reality-warping.
Photography in regards to activism in the streets serve these four functions:
Humanize the movement;
Deter, degrade and destroy white supremacy narrative control efforts;
Document agitators and aggressors towards protesters
Hold police accountable.
Everyone today interacts with the past through history books, and through those books people are moved by the photograph first. So if you have the skill and ability, go out there.
4) In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. What I do know is that the very definition of trauma is the inability to see a future. I just know what I'm doing is right, and I made peace a long time ago with the fact that I might not see change in my life time. We spend a lot more time dead than alive on this planet, and due to this fact, I rather do the right thing right now than waiting for a right-later. Justice cannot wait; neither shall we.
5) What are your top three anti-racism articles you have written?
Top three? I'll have to say:
The What ever happened to the old racists article was an observation of our society of old reflecting onto the new. Those hyper-aggressive racist whites in those old civil rights photos didn't all of a sudden agree with Civil Rights. They build racist information infrastructures and propaganda platforms. The list goes on.
Six Freedoms, I felt, was a very important report being that it looks at the many ways Black life is diminished in our United States.
I stopped celebrating "first Blacks" a long time ago, but at the advent of a first Black Secretary of Defense, I had space to write an explanation why. I detailed the reasons why, while happy for the person--I don't celebrate first Blacks anymore, unless they are Black, first.
I highly recommend giving these a look; the articles explain themselves better than a summary here.
6) Share one anti-racism article you've read written by someone else that resonated with you.
Marley K is an outstanding writer. The first one that stood out to me was this one where she explained the pain of having a granddaughter raised to be racist. It was really compelling, because while I can never be a grandmother, I will have children one day, so she gives a view of a possible future of a person.
Overall, I've been writing since 2012 or 2013 or so. I've been doxxed, dragged, misunderstood, and intellectually attacked on all sides, from all corners, and I'm still here. I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doing until I get killed or die of natural causes, whatever which comes first.
Unfortunately I do not see a better tomorrow happening in my own lifetime. But this doesn't mean that I cease doing the right thing. While we do things to meet goals, I think many of us should find peace in the reality that we might not live to see these goals being met. Martin didn't. Malcolm didn't. But they kept on doing the right thing. I think I'll leave us with that note.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
P.S. “One of the best educational gifts I gave myself last year” - feedback from one of the participants in the Anti-Racism Workshop I’m co-facilitating. The next one is on March 20th - check out the details at Beyond School.