For photographer and artist Tyesha “Tye” Moores, who was recently commissioned by the Obama Foundation for a project highlight community activism, the shooting of Jacob Blake hit home in more ways than one.
As a Black artist who grew up in Austin in currently lives in Belmont-Cragin, she always tried to use her art to uplift and empower. She has been passionate about civil rights and defunding the police, and the events of the past summer have only made her more passionate. And Kenosha was the city where she went to high school and where she was inspired to become an artist in the first place.
While the incident has been heart-wrenching, Moores is more determined than ever to use her art to inspire and encourage change.
Moores described herself as a photographer, a brand manager and a director – “basically, a jack of all trades.” Everything she does, she said, is to inspire and celebrate African-Americans, especially Black women, whose beauty and creative expression is often devalued and appropriated. And she likes to use bright, bold colors, something that she described as a reflection of her outgoing personality.
“I work in the realm of Black people, and making Black people looking good and bringing all the beauty we offer to the world to light,” Moores said. “I’m very vivacious, energetic, and I always try to bring it into my work, so I can see myself in my work in some way.”
Growing up in North Austin, Moores said she appreciated the sense of community, and she fondly recalled visits to the North Austin branch library, 5724 W. North Ave., and attending Ella Flagg Young elementary school, 1434 N. Parkside Ave. The neighborhood had beauty that many people don’t realize is there, she said.
“Learning how to ride my bike with my dad, and all of those things are the foundation of what I am,” she reflected. “Being from Chicago, born and bred, [gives you] a certain headstrong energy that I don’t see anywhere else.”
After spending her childhood surrounded by people who looked like her, moving to the “not predominantly Black” Kenosha was a cultural shock. But it was also a place where she discovered her interest in art. Moores attended Indian Trail High School and Academy, a public school where students are enrolled in one of the four “academies,” each with a different subject area focus. She enrolled in the Communications Academy, which focused on media, graphic design and photography.
“When you grow up in Chicago, in the hood, there’s not a lot of opportunities to do what you want to do as an artist, because you worry about violence,” Moores said, adding that her experiences in Austin and her experiences in Kenosha both formed equally important parts of who she is.
Since then, her art has led her to many opportunities. Most notably, earlier this summer, Obama Foundation reached out to her to work on the project highlighting several Black Chicago community leaders “who have risen up against racial injustice, channeled their anguish into action, and embodied what it means to lead in our hometown.”
“When they initially emailed me, I thought it was fake,” Moores recalled. “I was shocked, but I was also grateful, because I was trying to think of the ways to lift up the people that are doing the work in the community.”
She said that she appreciated that the Obama Foundation was flexible and allowed her full creative control, since there are many organizations who try to take advantage of artists.
And Moore wants to inspire the younger generation. For the past three years, she has been student mentor as part of the City Year Chicago program at the Chicago Academy High School in Belmont-Cragin, at 3400 N. Austin Ave. COVID-19 made the process more difficult for everyone involved, especially the students, but she is determined to do what she can.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t see black women like me who had colored hair, who were analogically themselves,” Moores said. “I want them to know, to believe, that you can do anything. I want them to know that education is a powerful tool, and I will do whatever I can to see that they succeed in getting that.”
Since the killing of George Floyd, she has become more determined than ever to do empower and uplift the community. When she heard about what happened with Blake, she was distraught and worried about her mom, who still lives in Kenosha.
“I feel like [Kenosha] was not safe for black people there,” she said. “I’s extremely unfortunate. But that’s the reason why I’m so passionate about defunding the police.”
The shooting, Moores said, was a clear illustration of racism in policing.
“There is no reason why anybody should be shot seven times in the back,” she said. “Because I’ve seen videos of people who are white, running after cops with guns in their hands.”
She explained that she didn’t necessarily want to get rid of law enforcement altogether, but anyone who provides public safety should be from the community they police, and they should be accountable directly to the community they police.
Moore added that she’s in favor of shifting more resources toward social services, especially schools and mental health clinics.
While she said she appreciates Mayor Lori Lightfoot investing more in the communities on the South and West sides, Moores said, that it’s not enough, and it doesn’t address some of the root causes of crime and other social ills. Listening to what the community actually wants and needs, she said, is key.
“In the perfect world, I would love to see our mayor, as well the local officials like state representatives, and the aldermen, get together with community members who are leading the uprising right now, that are leading Black Lives Matter,” she said. “Sit them with them, hear what they’re saying, and ask them, honestly, ‘What do you guys think is the most important thing we should do?'”
For more information about Tye Moores and her work, visit http://www.photyegraphy.com/.