My name is Marilyn Nance. I am a photographer and a storyteller, a community activist and a mother, a teacher and a critic.

I am a forty-six year old Black woman, at the time of my birth, only 88 years removed from the condition of slavery.

My family moved (was sold) into Alabama from Virginia. Our bloodlines are African mixed with Native American.

My grandmother, Mrs. Anna Powell Franklin, was born and raised in Eufaula, Alabama with nine sisters and one brother, the children of Mary Alice Edwards Powell (born circa 1863) and Wade Powell (born circa 1852, son of Cuffie and Ellen Powell of Virginia).

I do not know how my family "arrived" in Alabama or when, but it was probably after 1830 when the Creek Indians, the natives of Eufaula were "removed" and Alabama was "settled". The unpaid-for land of Native Americans and the unpaid labor of Africans (my family) enabled the white settlers and entrepreneurs of Eufaula to live extremely well based on the production and trade of cotton.

I am stolen merchandise, a commodity, bought and sold, pressed into service for the production of goods and services that enrich the lives of others, not me.

Stolen labor on stolen land. The mass production and sale of goods. The creation of wealth with little investment. Ha! What a deal! What a good life for some.

Slave Cabin, near Eufaula, Alabama

Now, I'm free or so I think I am, though I remain ever vigilant. There are paddyrollers all about. There are any number of people who would willingly and quickly re-enslave me, restrict my freedom by any means necessary, and return me to an institution of enslavement. Prison. Drugs. Housing projects. Debt.

I am an artist. I create work that "moves the heart, revives the soul, delights the senses, and offers courage for living". I possess a gift and I labor in the service of my gifts.

I am the first person in my family to own my own labor (though not the first to possess these gifts). I wake up each day knowing this, and knowing that, "today, my hands and my mind will do my work"

I will own myself and experience, firsthand, the results of my labor.

I come from people who refused to give up. My African foreparents, without the benefit of a legal personality in this land, managed to maintain a knowledge of what it is to be human. This knowledge is my legacy.

My thoughts are their thoughts. My hope is their hope. My creative expression is their creative expression. I struggle in this present day to live and to create, as they struggled in their day to do the same.

The message they passed down to me is DON'T GIVE UP!

soulsista Says...

"Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us which can mold us, but which can also be affected by us. A balance must be established between these two worlds:the one inside us and the one outside us.

As a result of a constant reciprocal process, both of those worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate."


If soulsista Says... was music, it would be the blues which "lie at the boundary of African culture, where residual African elements pass over into American."

"The function of the Blues is to tell the story, to carry the news, not in details like a ballad, but in proverbial texts and symbolic phrases."

The iconic and mythic meanings that the photographs have for me may be different from the meanings that the photographs have for you. That is the strength of the work, that the viewer becomes engaged, and creates her own meaning.

There is something here for everyone.

I am committed to the creation of reflective spaces that are designed to move the viewer to experience her own decisive moment.

I am spirit driven and driven by love. It is love that makes me struggle so hard. It is love that makes me talk so loud.

soulsista is a storyteller, maybe a blues singer or a fortune teller, maybe an insurrectionist or a church sister.

She has power, you know, but, so do you. We are all endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights and the power to transform and be transformed.

Giving up is a refusal to use our gifts, our God-given powers.

Text © Marilyn Nance
All Rights Reserved.