Khaleb Brooks & Naeem Davis – ‘A Conversation Supporting the Black Trans Community’ – A Blue Skies Conversation
On the 17th of May 2020, Demetrio Campos, an iconic figure in the black trans community committed suicide. Overwhelmed with depression, experiences of violence in Brazil and likely the impact of Covid he made the decision at 23 to take his life. Thousands are devastated. Khaleb and Naeem began discussing how this loss has impacted them and the necessity to create systems of support specifically for black trans people that are masculine of center. In this conversation Khaleb and Naeem discuss their experiences of feeling silenced, being socialised as black women and navigating the realities and projections of black masculinity. They continuously ask themselves, what does being a part of a community look like? Where can black trans people discuss their experiences and would policy change truly affect social change? The impact of Covid- 19, as well as the ongoing murder of black people at the hands of the police are overwhelming realities to reconcile with. Yet through these hard times this conversation hopes to offer an intimate look at trans identity through personal experiences and friendship.
Khaleb Brooks is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and writer exploring blackness, transness and collective memory. Meshing the black queer figure with surreal environments in paintings and entering transcendental states in performance they force their audience to confront the literal and social death of black people globally. Over the last year Khaleb has been an artist in residence at the Tate Modern, where theu used the museums collection to lead weekly workshops and create work around the Trans Atlantic slave trade. Performing in the 2019 Venice Biennale and consistently pushing the boundaries of art as a tool to politically engage, Khaleb continues to exhibit globally: Institute of Contemporary Art (2020 and 2018), Schwules Museum in Berlin (2019), Gazelli Art House in London (2019), GlogauAir in Berlin (2019), 198 Contemporary in London (2017) and We- Dey Gallery in Vienna (2018).
Prior to working as an artist full time, Khaleb was an International Development practitioner where they worked with the United Nations and a multitude of NGO’s throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia. They have taken their passion for social justice and consistently seek innovative ways to bring that work to the creative sector. Khaleb, originally from Chicago, is inspired by the perseverance of black families in overcoming poverty, addiction, abuse and gang violence as well as their own experiences of being transgender. Khaleb graduated from SOAS with an MSc in Violence Conflict and Development in 2015.
Naeem Davis is a queer trans cultural producer, writer and the co-founder of Lesbiennale and BBZ, a curatorial collective and club night based in south London. For the past three years, they have produced events across the globe and worked in partnership with institutions including the Tate, Glastonbury Festival, Afropunk Festival and the British Council. As a collective, BBZ prioritises the experiences of queer womxn, trans folk and non-binary people of colour in all aspects of their work and provides physical and online platforms for emerging queer talent.
As a co-founder and independent producer, Davis remains unapologetically committed to building safer spaces for marginalized communities. Davis is a frequent speaker at many universities and conferences such as UCL, The RA, Goldsmiths, SOAS and for a wide range of organizations from the Southbank Centre, The Barbican and Whitechapel Gallery to CDR, Apple and Shesaidso. Their work has been profiled in ID magazine, Vogue UK, Elle, Crack magazine, Time out, The guardian, Notion, Vice, Hunger, Wonderland and Gaytimes.
Image 1: Demetrio Campos photographed by Bernoch.
Image 2: Khaleb Brooks and Naeem Davis photographed by Phoebe Collings-James.