Black Florida

By Johanne Rahaman

My name is Johanne Rahaman, I am a documentary photographer, and a child of the African Diaspora. Six years ago I started deliberately photographing and recording black Floridians to create a new archive to fill the gaps of what’s left out of the Florida narrative; one that offers a more nuanced view of our communities.

Florida is often positioned by its Latin population, its beaches, Disney, and the nightlife, while the contribution made by its vibrant and culturally diverse African Diaspora remains suppressed unless it’s considered newsworthy. I wanted to claim a larger more pronounced place in the national conversation and in the archives for us, and I’ve been doing this by travelling across the state on weekends, photographing people in their intimate spaces, collecting oral histories, and developing deep bonds.

My goal as a photographer, and a member of this diaspora, is to amplify these voices and communities that remind me of my homeland, the Laventille Hills of Trinidad, offering a snapshot of everyday moments often obscured in Florida.

I work full-time in an office where I support myself financially, but it is photography that supports me creatively, emotionally, and spiritually. Over the past six years, I’ve been spending my weekends working on this project, driving in search of black communities. In the process I have developed a kinship with the residents, as our collaboration to make their untold narratives public has grown a loyal social media following.

Through social media, and the photo journal, Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, the visibility of the project has expanded to reach a wider audience that would rarely have an opportunity to experience the full range of black life in Florida. While the project is kept digitally accessible to the public, many residents without access to social media, such as senior citizens, are dependent on my return with proof of their dignity intact. To maintain that transparent relationship with the communities, at completion these images will be repatriated to the neighbourhoods in which they were created, to bridge the existing archives throughout the state, offering a broader view of black life in Florida.