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If We Stand Tall

United States

by Cheryl Miller

Published December 2023

This project documents quotidian Black life from 1978-1998—images of African Americans viewed through a variety of everyday positive, relatable, uplifting, and ordinary experiences. The subjects are in environments familiar to the subject and the photographer., 

Cheryl Miller’s archive of 40 years shows how the existence of Black life is an act of resistance by the survivors of the Middle Passage (the kidnapping/trafficking of enslaved Africans from Africa to the Americas). As descendants of Africans who for hundreds of  years lived through that horrific journey destined for an enslaved future, Black Codes, Jim Crow, systemic racism, and countless atrocities designed to destroy Black people on every possible level;  the Black community today stands on our ancestor's shoulders as witnesses and recipients of the gifts of strength, resilience, promise and hope. Honoring and revering our ancestors is what allows us to maintain our joy and channel these gifts.

Rites, rituals, and social norms: how we live, work, play, conduct business, raise children, build families and community, create art, educate, invent, worship, entertain and* experience joy, despite it all. This is the resistance to enslavement, institutional racism, and white supremacy.

Cheryl Miller

Cheryl Miller is a self-taught photographer and former city and regional planner. Her practice exists to create images of African Americans viewed through a kaleidoscope of everyday experiences. Her focus is on the rich visual development of communities, neighborhoods and the people that make them thrive.

Miller’s work has been exhibited in local, national and international art institutions, and is in the permanent collections of Brooklyn Museum, Schomburg Center for Black Culture and Research, and the Museum of the City of New York.

In addition, she was an Adjunct Lecturer at The Tisch Department of Photography and Imaging at NYU. She also taught photography in the NYC Department of Education. As an active member of the local arts community, Miller has sat on the Board of Directors of the Queens Council on the Arts and The Cultural Collaborative of Jamaica.

She was also Beacon Gallery’s (Boston) 2023 Artist In Residence, the recipient of 2023 Mass Cultural Recovery Grant, and awarded the 2023 La Luz Workshop Scholarship—Publish Your Photography Book. Miller is a 2024 Light Work Artist In Residence recipient.

Currently, Miller is working on her book project, If We Stand Tall…Recollections of Spirits Past. After working with KMW Studios on the original draft 20 years ago, the collaboration has been revived with new interest in her visual depiction of Black quotidian life. 

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