Named after the famous feminist storyteller of the “Arabian Nights,” Scheherazade Tillet is a Trinidadian and African American photographer, art therapist, and social justice organizer. In 2003, she co-founded A Long Walk Home (ALWH), a Chicago-based national nonprofit, that uses art to empower young people and end violence against girls and women.
All images from the series below are Archival Pigment Prints, Dimensions Variable
My Family Chair
2018 - 2020
Like Aretha Franklin’s forever transforming Otis Redding’s song, “Respect” into her own, this series by feminist photographer and activist Scheherazade Tillet takes up Huey Newton’s 1967 iconic image while also re-staging and updating this familiar object from her childhood home -- the wicker chair -- with African-American teen girls.
This series features girls and young women from Tillet’s A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends Leadership Institute which empowers black girls from Chicago to use art to advocate for themselves, other girls, and for racial and gender justice in their schools, communities, and beyond. Through months and years of in-depth workshops and trainings Tillet earns the closeness and trust of these young women and is able to create her empowering photographic portraits.
A Rite of Passage for Black Girls
2018 - 2020
“The Prom Send Off: A Rite of Passage for Black Girls” is a new body of photographic work in which Scheherazade Tillet document how African-American girls in Chicago celebrate the dynamism of their identities and the communities from which they come. The event much like a quinceañeras are for Latinx communities, “the prom send-off” is a complex, year-long rite of passage for black girls, their friends, and families that renders proms as more than a party or fashion statement. Through this ritual, proms are communal spaces of self-expression, inimitable style, and coming into adulthood.
Story of a Rape Survivor, SOARS
Almost twenty years before #MeToo, photographer Scheherazade Tillet asked her older Salamishah, if she could actively participate in her recovery process by photo documenting her different stages of healing. In turn, Salamishah opened a window onto her sites of trauma and her newfound safe spaces. Over the span of fifteen years, she photographed Salamishah grappling with her sexuality, eating disorders, and the reclaiming of her spirituality and body, she and her sister found healing pathways for herself and others.
Together, the Tillet sisters invited a cast of black women artists to bring those images to stage in the 90-minute performance, STORY OF A RAPE SURVIVOR (SOARS), a collective portrait of one black woman’s surviving sexual assault. SOARS was an early trailblazer in its elevation of the voices of rape survivors of color, its education of the public about the epidemic of sexual violence, and its in-depth focus on healing and recovery in the aftermath of trauma. In 2003, the Tillet sisters began touring SOARS nationally and have presented at more than 500 colleges and universities.
Little Girl Blue: A Sojourn to Nina Simone's Childhood Home