Recently my little cousin said, “…blackness is NOT monolithic. And my black experience is not the same as someone else’s. Blackness exists on a spectrum, if you will.” She’s absolutely right there are levels to blackness; however, almost EVERY Black American knows about the good ol’ church fan!
Stax Museum, in Memphis, TN, had an exhibit about the church fan. I learned that, historically, the fan’s popularity rose in Black American churches because parishioners could not afford air conditioning. Local businesses saw these fans as an opportunity to advertise their services. Usually funeral homes are the most popular because, well no explanation needed there!
The fans have a range of images on the front from children praying, to pictures of Jesus, to the “Queen of Gospel”, Mahalia Jackson and of course Martin Luther King Jr. Besides the obvious, the fans are used for waving in agreement to the pastor’s sermon, swatting flies, percussion instruments, disciplining unruly children and writing random notes and bible scriptures.
Today former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official portraits that will hang in the White House to represent their time there. Both portraits are painted by Black artists. The paintings are bold, colorful and will most certainly add interest to the current gallery of former presidents and first ladies. In usual Black, social media fashion, someone has already capitalized on this announcement by superimposing the Obamas portraits on a typical church fan. Very clever. What a breath of fresh air; those same old images were getting old!
I can see prints of the Obama’s portraits being immortalized on fans in Black churches across America for years to come! So what do you think? Yay or nay? Leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts on the iconic church fan.
As always, thanks for reading. See y’all soon!