This blog is composed of images and writings related to the life and work of Faith Ringgold, her mother Mme. Willi Posey, and her daughters Michele and Barbara Wallace. There are pages with links to blogs composed of the materials arranged by decades. The blog, itself, will ultimately be composed of materials related to the life of the family in the 90s and the 21st century.

Monday

Photo Essay: Michele in Anything Goes 1968

This is before I got an Afro, which means I was 16, maybe still dating Stanley Nelson, my boyfriend.  I can hardly recall.  I remember being that girl doing that routine but what else was going on in my life is fuzzy.  Anything Goes was a New Lincoln musical production and great fun in the doing.
The summer before in 1967 Barbara and I had gone to Europe with MJ for two whole months while Mom Faith concentrated on producing her great murals DIE, THE FLAG IS BLEEDING and THE UNITED STATES POSTAGE STAMP TO COMMEMORATE BLACK POWER.  During the day she painted at the Spectrum gallery on 57th Street with her friend Jeannine Petite, and in the evenings she avoided her own apartment where Dad was and went instead to MJ's smaller, less demanding apartment.  Dad was effectively abandoned for the summer and eventually wondered away to establish his new apartment in 409.  Faith tells me and tells everyone that this was the first time ever in her adult life that she had ever been entirely on her own, entirely alone and free to do whatever she wished without having to consider the wants and needs of her family.  She was 37 years old and it had been a very long wait.

The sacrifice she made was that at the end of the summer, Dad and her were no longer living together.  After the fall out from two month trip to Europe (to Paris, Rome, London, Florence and perhaps Nice) with MJ the summer of 1967, we were considered incapable of taking trips with adults. We had been rude with MJ, a problem we had never had before. I was consumed with guilt at the time because as I recall my one abiding thought in every beautiful European city we visited was how to get away from MJ so that I could have a cigarette. Barbara and I were both mildly addicted to cigarettes at this point. 

Both of our parents smoked at home.  Unfortunately, many of the kids at New Lincoln smoked. Cigarettes were easily procured from other students. We had a student lounge in which the major activity other than playing cards, was smoking and we had a little hangout down the street where the smoke was so thick you could cut it with a knife. 

The kids at New Lincoln were very worldly and sophisticated, disrespectful and disdainful of both religion and authority, terrifyingly so in fact, and I am afraid it had a negative impact on my regard for MJ's more homespun style of childrearing and instruction.  It was she who had given me my initial training in religion, deportment, manners, morality and ethics. I had always taken her very seriously, loved her food, her cooking, her clothes, everything about her.  When we moved away from her house on Edgecombe Avenue to the Bronx, I had even tried to run away to go live with her, for which I got the only whipping that I can clearly remember. 

We had only great times at MJ's house and even once we had gone to live in the Bronx or in 345, weekends, sick days and holidays were all spent with MJ.  We were always welcome at her house.  I often accompanied her wherever she needed or wanted to go.  My relationship with her had always been easy, completely loving and warm.  At MJ's house there was no housework and cooking, no holding back on the childcentered quality of the environment she provided. You were woken up early in the morning with a day of fun planned for you and then it was early to bed.  Unlike my Mom, MJ could somehow easily manage this, all her housework, the cooking and her sewing too.  Mixed in as well were delightful surprises of entertainments you had not imagined, foods you loved to eat but rarely saw in the Bronx and just the greatest fun you could possibly imagine.  

Sometimes when it was warm, it was still light when we were put to bed. I know I would not have gone to bed so early for my Mom and Dad but for MJ, you did anything she wanted. So it was all the more surprising and unacceptible that we were starting to laugh behind MJ's back and keep secrets from her, sneaking away to grab cigarettes in the bathroom down the hall (in Europe we stayed all three of us in a single room in a pensione with a bathroom down the hall. Kids are not good at sneaking but we had to sneak to buy the cigarettes, sneak to smoke them, and sneak to keep them hidden from her finding them.  It must have been truly terrible for her. All the time, i assumed she knew we were smoking although she never accused us of it.  Years later my Mom told me that she never said we were smoking, only that we had misbehaved.  I'll never know whether she knew or whether she didn't know that smoking was at the root of the problem.

So Barbara and I both spent the summer of 1968 in an arts program in Harlem at Music and Art, which was then located on the City College of New York campus. Given my superior training and maturity, I was soon drafted by the teacher as her demonstration assistant. Mom was chasing the Art World after the opening of her first one-woman show at the Spectrum Gallery in the fall of 1967, to which we invited all our friends from New Lincoln.  We drank champagne and danced as the adults made a circle around us.


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Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures

Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures
Barbara, MJ, Michele and Mom in the background in sunglasses at a fashion show in the early 60s