A museum centered on Art + Education + Social Justice through the lens of Africa + the diaspora

DIGITAL GALLERY | BCAM “Stereotype Silhouettes”

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In this digital gallery, students from Brooklyn Community Media & Arts High School (BCAM) reflect on a time when they were stereotyped. Each creates an original story that communicates the stereotypes that are placed upon them by their peers, community, and society at large.

Have you ever been stereotyped? By who? How did it make you feel? Have you ever wanted to push back against that stereotype and defy assumptions that others make about you? Have you ever wanted to show the truth?

Looking at contemporary artist Kara Walker for inspiration, they use cut paper silhouettes to tell their stories. Thinking about how to translate their stories from words to images, they consider the role of story, pose, and setting in their final pieces.


At Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM), students are prepared for 21st century academic, creative, and professional success. Through an art, media, and technology-enriched academic curriculum emphasizing community collaboration, each is challenged to think critically and create knowledge in pursuit of personal excellence and meaningful social change.


“Should I Know It All?” by Soledad Mexquititla

There were students in high school that asked if I was Mexican and I said “yes.” After that the students knew that I was Hispanic and could speak Spanish. Although what they didn’t know was that I didn’t really speak it or easily understand it. I am not fully Mexican, I’m Mexican-American because I was born here in the US but have Mexican parents. One day when I went to school a student in my class asked if I knew what the word “carajo” meant because his friends used it but he didn’t know its meaning. I was clueless on how to answer him, so I told him “no.” After I told him that I didn’t know what the word meant he said “I thought you were Hispanic.” At first, I felt horrible for not knowing what the word meant but then I told him “I am but that doesn’t mean I know every word in Spanish.”

The stereotype that was made was that every Hispanic person is supposed to know what every word in Spanish means and to be able to translate without thinking a lot. When this assumption is made to me it makes me feel sad and disappointed.


“My Hair, My World, My Life” by Kiree Addison

I began to wear my hair out and curly in middle school and I remember getting a lot of comments and questions on it every time I went to school with that hairstyle, “How did you get your hair like that?” or “Is your hair real?” These questions came from both students and teachers. I remember not being able to answer those questions because I felt pretty weird about someone asking me because if I respond with the truth, they’ll look at me as if I had five heads “Um…yes this is my hair,” or “Uh…I just wet my hair with water and put some conditioner in it.” The comments traveled to high school and even on the street I can’t count on my fingers how many times someone has asked me “What are you mixed with?” or even gone so far to say “Don’t Black girls like you have nappy hair?” School isn’t the only place where my hair gets a lot of comments. The main place it occurs is on social media. There’s a Natural Hair Movement that’s going on and lots of people believe that the only natural hair that exists are those of 4c texture. Or the movement is only for 4c hair. So now a lot of other textures are being looked down upon.

Most people have made the assumption that I’m mixed with another race or that I permed my hair for it to be curly. The questions are asked because of the stereotype that African American females do not have “Pretty/Good” hair or their hair usually has a tighter curl pattern and textures such as 4C but that doesn’t apply to ALL African American women. We all have different hair textures and curl patterns and each is beautiful in its own way.


“Being Different” by Kaval Brandford

My story is about me being bullied throughout my early years of being in elementary school to my final years of leaving middle school in 7th grade. I was bullied for being different from other boys, since I was more in tune with my feminine side and liked boys. In this society, people like me who are in the LGBTQ group are often stereotyped with the idea “You’re a boy, you’re only supposed to be attracted to girls.” Since I was so young at the time, I had no idea what to identify with personally or sexually, but I knew I was different. Even though I take ownership of who I am today and use it as a strength instead of a weakness, it still has a place in my mind where I reflect on these experiences.


“Age Is Just A Number” by JoAnny Boykin

I just got my hair done and my nails. I’m dressed in baggy sweats because it’s a lazy Saturday, but I still look good. I’m going to a party soon, so I walk down the shopping district by myself to go buy my outfit after I leave my mom and sister in the Sprint store. I’ll admit I’m feeling good, so I walk like I’m on a runway, putting modeling practice to good use. As I strut past two men I hear one of them say to the other “who does she think she is?” and then points at me as they purposely try to bump into me to get a reaction. I pass them with ease and keep on struttin’ (keep in mind I’m still in sweats that hang off my body, I wasn’t wearing anything revealing). After I find a good outfit and pay for it, I see the men from before and many others across the street. One looks at me and taps the other, and starts catcalling me “Yo Shorty, can I get your number?” Everyone is watching me now, but nobody is helping since it’s such a big group of men. A group of girls look at me and say, “It’s her fault for looking like that” and “She probably loves the attention.” I turn my head enough to give the guys a glare and say, “I’m only 16 leave me the f**k alone.” Then they just say, “Age is just a number” and that I’m worth “catching a case.”

The assumption made about me was that I wanted to act grown and would fall for the older men. The assumption was made because I was walking around confidently after getting my hair and nails done. I felt scared but brave because I stood up for myself against all of those men when everyone else looked away. There isn’t a truth to those stereotypes because girls should be allowed to have confidence in themselves and wear and look how they want without people objectifying them.


“Not Who You Assume” by Kymani Arrindell

Back when I was a lot less talkative there’s no surprise I didn’t socialize a lot. This often led to people making assumptions about me that I was stand-offish or even just really chill. Some people were shocked to learn things about me because they assumed I would be a completely different person. For example, when I told people that I traveled a lot, lived in Texas, but my family was from Trinidad, they would usually make a face and say “What?” Even though it made sense to me.

This piece shows how I wasn’t very talkative and most of the time I only talked to people when they talked to me. This is probably when people start to put together their own idea of who I was, often not being right. Honestly since I didn’t talk to people it didn’t faze me in any major way, it never got to that level. I was surprised when the people around me were able to get me comfortable around them, and they are some of my close friends today.


“My Fake Smile” by Kenya Reyes

On the first and second week of school I am usually smiling and making new friends and when people see me smiling or laughing they think that I have the perfect life. They think that I have everything, but in reality, I don’t have what I want and my smile is fake. I fake smile because I don’t want people to know what really happens at home. As soon as I get home that “smile” goes away. Some of my friends think that I am really happy, but I am not. On the third day of school, I was walking to lunch with a couple of my friends and this girl came up to me and told me that she thinks that I have the perfect life and I asked “Why do you think that?” she said “Because I always see you smiling and laughing.”

People think that I am a very happy person, but I am actually not. Beneath that fake smile is a depressed girl who wants to feel loved by her parents. Happy girl, perfect life, that’s what people assume. When people make this assumption, I feel annoyed because they don’t really know me, they don’t know what really happens at home. There is no truth to this stereotype because people make this assumption just by looking at me.

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