“My Soul Looks Back: The Decades of Day Work Photographic Exhibit” opens Tuesday, March 10 and runs through March 14 at the Studio@620, 620 First Avenue South in St. Petersburg. Produced by Your Real Stories, the exhibit showcases archival photographs from the people who shared their stories about the Black maids from the 1930’s through the 1990’s and the White families that employed them. The photos gathered for the popular “Decades of Day Work” theatrical series, speak volumes about how domestic day work has impacted the history of millions – across generations and ethnicities. The Studio @620 gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 12:00PM-4:00PM. The exhibit reception includes a staged reading and is scheduled for Friday, March 13th from 6-9pm.
The exhibit also features contemporary portraits of each of the “Decades of Day Work” storytellers by award-winning photographer, Boyzell Hosey. He captures the images of people who tell their stories about being day workers, employing day workers or being the children affected by the institution of day work.
Seventy-eight-year-old storyteller, Alonza Wade, grew up in Miami. His mother was a domestic day worker, who worked for a white family on Miami Beach. But, because of segregation and Jim Crow laws, she could not be on Miami beach unescorted. “She had to ride in the back of the bus to the beach,” he says, “Give the attendant her ID card, go to the next station and pick up her pass. Then, get back on the bus. At the next bus stop, the owner[of the house] had to be there to take her to work.”
Elaine Woodward’s archival photos tell the story of what she calls her “forty-six-year sisterhood” with her maid, Celia Gee, who was Black. Elaine, who is white told the people assembled for Gee’s funeral, ” I had always hoped she would outlive me because she was so much a part of my daily existence. I miss her now and I will think of her every day for the rest of my life.”
Photographs from author Dr. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich include one of her saying goodbye to her parents as she boarded the train for Europe to begin a Fulbright Fellowship in the 1950’s. She remembers their sacrifices, “My mother was a college graduate and her parents were college graduates,” she says. “But, the only work my mother could get was day work.
This will be the second installment of the exhibit. The premiere was at the Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum in 2014. The introduction to “My Soul Looks Back: The “Decades of Day Work Photographic Exhibit” describes the development of this project:
“They said yes. Time after time when Your Real Stories asked to interview families about the institution of day work, Black people and White people alike said yes. They opened their doors and their hearts. No matter how personal or painful, they told us their stories and shared their lives in pictures. Now, the pictures help to tell the story of Black maids and their often complex relationships with the White families they cared for. Each archival photograph provides a glimpse of American life during the 1930s through the 1990s –through times when the nation had laws against human connections across race. This exhibit is a tribute to the sacrifices and successes of women who worked hard caring for other people’s families just to feed their own. And in the process, helped to raise a nation. Our souls look back in gratitude”
Your Real Stories invites you to “My Soul Looks Back: The Decades of Day Work Photographic Exhibit” March 10-14 at The Studio@620, 620 First Avenue South in St Petersburg. And join us for the exhibit reception Friday, March 13 from 6 to 9. Tour the exhibit, meet the local storytellers, and enjoy a staged reading from “Decades of Day Work.” Both the exhibit and the reception are free and open to the public. Are you on Facebook? Let us know you’re attending the exhibit and share the event with friends HERE