Meditations: A Series of Self-Portraits

What I wear can’t be replaced. 

Inside or out, it always stays the same.

Day after day, I look at myself and reflect

on my outfit of (no) choice.

Black skin and nappy curls is what it is.


My outfit has its pros and cons.

Nonetheless, I take care and maintain it 

with the utmost care.

Because they would rather want to see it 




and Destroyed.

So I treat my body how a samurai treats their sword,

as a weapon that must remain sharp.


My image is similar to his.

So I moisturize and maintain

this wool-like substance on the top of my head.

This is an act that carries spiritual energy,

because my features come from the Lamb of God itself.

And I’m reminded to move like him,

for I am protected from all evil.


It doesn’t take much to take care of bronze.

I wash away the day’s dirt with a dampened cloth.

Then I moisturize and replenish,

taking care of my skin

how a knight would take care of their armor,

making sure it never rusts.


Rhythm is embedded in my soul.

The ancestors’ old movements are now within me.

My hands travel over my body with beauty and grace,

dancing along my arms and abdomen — 

as if I were a student of Arthur Mitchell or Alvin Ailey.


I am Black, 

I am a man, 

I am elegant, 

and I am bliss.

And even on the days 

I am crucified, 

and punctured on my side — 

they still have not won.

Because afterwards 

I will rise.


. . .

Thoughts Behind Self-Portraits

One’s post-shower routine tends to be something that is done in private. I’ve always seen taking care of oneself in privacy as an act of self-love and intimacy. But in the presence of a camera, with an omnipresent gaze that allows the spectator to peer into this private act — the dynamic changes. Under the presence of a camera, that sense of privacy is lost. However, that lost privacy can lead to new symbolic gestures and ideas. One idea this presented to me was comfortability. Comfortability with oneself to continue their act of self-love and intimacy in the midst of gazing eyes.  

As a Black body, I find this to be an extremely important political act; and as a man, I find this to be an extremely important political act. For Black people for centuries have been told there is nothing to love about our being; and men since the dawn of humanity have been told that there is no value in emotions, intimacy, and vulnerability. Turning the camera toward myself and presenting it for viewers to peer and gaze in on an act that is so private is a declaration of my existence as a Black individual and a man. And I find it to be an act of the most political sentiments.

Jalen Adams

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