Tomorrow Attacking — 1998 Million Youth March, NYC, by Tyrone Brown-Osborne

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

I ran out of my house that day with one camera strapped across my right shoulder and another dangling from my left hand. It was hot, it was noisy and an unusually tense summer day. I had heard that an organizer was putting together a massive march for youth in Harlem. I knew very little about what actually prompted the march, but neither did I care. What I didn’t know, or hadn’t expected, was how many people of varying backgrounds: youth, elders, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, would actually show up to what was essentially a political rally aimed at reforming the systems that continue to stigmatize young people of color.

Often I chided the Harlem community for what I thought, and sometimes still think, is its unbearable indulgence in meaningless materialism and zealot-like adoration with celebrity … but not this day. This day I witnessed a Harlem with a palpable awareness that generations were not born merely to shop; that history mattered, collective and personal; that heroes and a life lived with honor and self-worth mattered — especially against so many slights.

I thought about all those young boys, and sometimes girls, cut down by police bullets; the thousands upon thousands of grossly undereducated children who are shamefully overrepresented in our criminal justice system, their opportunities diminished long before they graduate from poorly performing high schools. This day, the people awoke and refused to go unseen, to go unheard, to go under.

The title? I once had a great postcard given to me by a friend of two African youths in portrait, one with a cig in his mouth. The card was so rebellious, so forward, sexy and provoking, and on the flip side it said TOMORROW ATTACKING, meaning, in short, the youth will rise up!

Tyrone Brown-Osborne is a portrait photographer and multimedia artist. His work investigates the challenges people face in forming and maintaining their individuality, addressing their non-conformity and embracing choice. His distinctive portraits of choreographer Tina Brown, musicians Bilal Oliver, John Legend and Kanye West have been featured in The Village Voice, Philadelphia Style, Frank 151, Clam Magazine, Trace, The Source, The Fader, and other media outlets. In 2005 he was co-curator of BLACK at Local Project in Queens, NY and received a Puffin Foundation grant as curator for "Fire in the Belly: Free Expression & Individualism," an exhibit dedicated to exploring the aesthetic parallels between painting, photography and video. His directorial debut, The Wonder of Lilies, unifies his multiple disciplines in an experimental montage that challenges stereotypical notions about beauty and power. His work has been shown at Capla/Kesting Gallery, The Time/Life Gallery, MOCADA, and The International Center of Photography.