Black women run the world. However, now it is time for us to be fully compensated for the work that we put in!
Autumn Breon uses the words “artist,” “freedom-seeker,” and “curious” when asked to describe herself, yet those just aren’t enough to showcase the talent of a woman who pays homage to all of the Black women who came before her in this revolutionary space.
Breon is the mastermind behind (Don’t) Use Me, the first iteration of the Frieze Art Fair located in Los Angeles, CA. It’s centered around the pay disparity surrounding Black women and their white counterparts.
“I want freedom for Black women and I want to be free,” said Breon in an interview with AfroTech. “And a part of the freedom that I imagine for us is financial freedom and it’s really hard for us to reach that kind of freedom when the realities of pay inequity are what we have to live with. I knew that Black women are paid, on average, about 63 cents on the dollar, but when I was researching and kind of like projecting that into time, I saw that it takes us about eight months into the next year to earn what a white man does in 365 days.”
Our Time Is Money
In this case, Breon highlights the fact that time really is money and that the proper compensation for Black women is a demand, not a request.
“I’m really serious about my time and how I use it, that’s very important to me,” she told AfroTech. “So, when I saw that kind of data, all I could think about was ‘When do we reach pay equity? What will I do with that reclaimed time?'”
She continued: “I started wondering what other Black women would do with their time. So, I just posed the question to the public to try to get Black women to share that kind of reclamation with me.”
The information was shared through Breon’s hair — like literally, through her hair.
After garnering inspiration from the iconic Diana Ross and her 1969 performance of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” the performance portion of the art exhibit featured a call and response initiative that paid homage to native African and Diasporic artistic practices.
Audience members pulled answers collected in a survey right from Breon’s beautiful fro.
Reclaiming Our Time With Coins
Ahead of International Women’s Day, she partnered with Voice HQ to create a special edition of 50 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that serve as a digital version of the survey answers from the art iteration. Each of the participating Black women is also considered co-creators of the project, which means they will be paid as long as the digital art sells.
“I wanted this to provide some of the visual vocabularies for what financial freedom for Black women will look like. That was a huge inspiration for the project, but I also wanted this to be direct action against pay equity,” Breon shared. “I have been learning about NFTs and the whole crypto art space and a part of why I use the word perpetually curious to describe myself is because when I learn about something new, I become obsessive about it — with trying to understand every part of it, but I also just want other people to know all that there is to know about it so that they can be equally excited.“
Her excitement in the NFT space led her to invite others into the creative project, which she says is what art is all about.
A Win-Win Collaboration
“So much of art is collaborative and so much of my creative practice is collaborative,” Breon explained. “I imagined using NFTs in a really interesting way to include the Black women that participated in this project as co-creators because they helped me to create this art piece by sharing their words.”
On March 8, each of the ladies who participated in the survey will be included as co-creators of the NFTs, which will serve as artifacts from the live performance of the (Don’t) Use Me iteration.