Beyonce, P.Diddy, Lenny Kravitz and Lil kim grace the grand entrance into the Black Style Nowexhibit. Life size mannequins dressed in the dazzling silken gowns, three piece suits, and fringed leather vests originally worn by these larger-than-life icons welcome you to the Museum of the City of New York. An elaborate marble staircase spirals upward along a backdrop of snapshots featuring everyday black folk stylin in NYC.
You have to know where you are coming from to know where you are going. The exhibit exemplifies the saying as it takes museum-goers on a trip down memory lane in a living tribute of photos and objects from the early 1900's to the 1970's. If you listen closely, you can hear the elaborate chapeau pictured on a fur clad guest at the wedding of Harlem royalty Adam Clayton Powell Jr., whisper "I am African" to the collection of ornate carved walking sticks which belonged to the civil rights movement's mastermind, Bayard Rustin. Although it is uniquely American, the twists and the turns of the wedding guest's that mirrors the intricacy of Nigerian headdress.
While the museum may have overdone the hip-hop influence on black style, the main gallery reminds one of the sign above one Harlem Senegalese hair braiding shop that reads "All styles you like." This gallery of contemporary classics has flat screen TVs streaming everything from Baby Phat's latest runway fashions to footage of the original hip-hop image outlet, Video Music Box. Amongst the diamond studded accessories from Simmons Jewelry Company there is also a section in the main room highlighting the black man's birthright and labor of love: black hair.
Stylish twenty-six year old, Nigerian singer yvonne fly anakeme etaghene plans to see the show before it closes on February 19th, 2007. "Black style like black music is full of African retentions. The world loves black music for instance, 50cent. If you notice, it is important we keep in mind that there is something in music that is bigger than him. It is the African rhythm that has retained the test of time," she said.
Her comment is best understood when looking at the portrait of a gold laden Slick Rick the Ruler in the 1990s, his headdress and the copious amounts of gold dripping from his neck, fingers, and wrist can only remind you of an Ashante King. Be sure to stop by the Museum of the City of New York (through February 19, 2007) and get in vogue with Black Style Now.