Remembering the Orangeburg Massacre 50 years later
As the campus of South Carolina State University prepared to remember the protests of February 8th, 1968, I started to speak with my students about the events and what they knew. I was not surprised that they could only provide vague sound bites and that they could not reconstruct what happened with any detail or coherence. I started reflecting on how they had caught the headlines about the Orangeburg Massacre in a fractured and disjointed manner, but never examined the reasons behind the protests or how they escalated. I wanted to capture how the killing of three young, black men and the injuring of 27 black students on campus had become, in their minds, white noise. A gym, plaques, lessons in University 101, and many other SC State ceremonies were rote rituals, and seemed irrelevant to their daily life.
Using photos and newspapers articles from the months leading up to and immediately following the massacre, I created a moving collage that mixes text and images. It is quiet and bright; if you glance at it in passing in the gallery, the projection seems to be just light. Only by stopping and letting your eyes adjust to the brightness of the projection will you be able to see the layers and tease apart the content. The silence of the video stands in stark contrast to the cacophony of images.