If you haven’t heard the name Liz Clarke, aka htbsle (pronounced “hitabaseelay”), it’s a name you should remember. In recent years, the Toronto-born, Ottawa-based spoken word poet, rapper, videographer and photographer, has been gaining some steam, using her creative touch to influence positive social change.
Her latest creation is AIR FORCE BLACKS―what Clarke refers to as a “social story” created to shine a bright light on the tenacious spirit of young black men. The name is a play on Nike’s Air Force 1’s and the influence the brand has had on black culture.
The project was born on July 6 2019, as she witnessed an interaction between a group of black men making their way to RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa. They were stopped by the police based on claims made by two white passersby about an event that may have occurred earlier on the bus. Despite the inconvenience caused by this situation, the black men were in incredibly high spirits for a festival they had been anticipating. These gentlemen proved to be the perfect subjects to photograph and record.
“The mission of this social story is to encourage police, policy makers and community members to take action and implement additional training for officers on how to assess situations concerning marginalized people in public spaces. It’s important that we work towards ensuring that our neighbourhoods are safe for all, ” Clarke says of her photo collection.
Through her company Freedx, an all-women led content creation agency, the multi-faceted artist hosted her debut event, the AIR FORCE BLACKS Photography Exhibit, welcoming many diverse demographics to share space, enjoy art, black culture and to celebrate one another and the youth in her city. The event also included a performance from Ottawa hip-hop artist City Fidelia. Almost 200 people were in attendance.
The exhibit was just a taste of what Freedx has in-store. The event marked the launch of Freedx’s Multiplex Community Event Series. The agency also has a Midsummer Nuit Noir event in the works, although it may be delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.