Arts & Culture

Celebrating our Black artists: Mallory Harris

Taiwana Shambley, A&E Editor

Mallory Harris is a visual artist and writer from the South Side of Chicago. He describes himself as an “auditory person” who likes to listen to people and capture their essence. Harris is a photographer, videographer, rapper and poet. His dad used to play a lot of ​boom bap​ for him growing up, and he learned that music with a message is the only thing that makes sense. He names Mos Def, Talib Kweli, ​old​ Kanye West, Common and Miles Davis as his biggest musical influences.

Though he’s been writing since he was 13, Harris didn’t start putting together photographs until he was 18 years old. He was “socially awkward and very self-conscious of his image,” so he stayed away from the camera. Now, a 23-year-old, he vows to take photos of himself like no tomorrow. He uses the awkwardness of his past to put inspiration and light into the world.

Harris creates “to free people out of the bondage they live in every day, out of the anxiety, even out of the oppression in one’s mind.” He says, “No matter how hard it gets, I like to keep in mind somebody can possibly be having a harder time than me, that I can’t be the only one.”

Creating helps him expand on his feelings rather than be passive with his emotions. “That’s what toxic masculinity is,” he says. Harris took some time off school to get a feel of what he wants out of life. He organized his first event in 2015 with a friend at Famous Dave’s, and the event housed over 300 people. He notes how one’s ability to create naturally brings folks together to share and unify. Harris recalls the last concert Mos Def and Talib Kweli did while on tour for their joint album “Black Star.” ​At the concert, they told audience members to take all the pictures and videos they wanted now, to get all of it out of their system so they can be fully present for the performance. Harris gives that a nod, he resonates with the sentiment of gathering, blocking out the outside noise and being fully immersed in one another. In that same vein, he asserts we should also “be free to give ourselves permission to socially tap out and focus on commitment.” Social batteries are real, and it’s okay to disassociate from others and enjoy your solitude.

At the end of the day, Harris wants people to know that “my identity is not in my giftings. Though I am able to provide a service, I am not ​a​ service … I’m a servant at heart, and I give God the glory with what I do. I hope to make my parents proud with this. I hope to encourage people pursuing post-secondary institution … Just keep moving.”

Harris is also passionate about fitness. He suffered from anxiety attacks a few years ago, and that’s what birthed this passion: working out has been a helpful outlet for his anxiety. He has plans to dedicate an Instagram page to his fitness journey. He gives Augsburg students discounts on photoshoots, and he uses this money to help pay for school. Check out Mallory Harris’s work on his Instagram @MalloryAHarris.

Mallory Harris Augsburg student. Photo by Saige Fehresti.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 22, 2019 issue.