The depth of Brittani “Brittsense” Sensabaugh’s photography extends beyond setting up beautiful compositions. With each click, she aims to document the radiance of Black and brown skin and the love among us—regardless of whether it’s evident to others.
“I can go to the most destructive neighborhood and still find the beauty of our people there,” she tells EBONY. “I just came from Kingston, Jamaica, and documented. There was a little empress [girl] in a bucket, and even inside that bucket she was still beautiful.”
Hailing from East Oakland, Calif., and now residing in New York, Sensabaugh describes her signature 222 Forgotten Cities movement as a way to strenghten the bonds between Black people and restore the trust, communication and unconditional love she says “is lacking in melanated communities across the world.” Sensabaugh, 27, uses her camera to not only analyze neglected neighborhoods but to also uncover the reasons they’ve been allowed to fall apart.
“I remember growing up and asking myself, ‘Why do we have advertisements to the liquor stores, check-cashing places and fast food places? Why is this only in our neighborhoods?’ I remember feeling caged,” she says.
With the history of our ancestors on her back, Sensabaugh enters areas mainstream media only highlight on the 10 o’clock news. Since the inception of her movement in 2011, Sensabaugh has traveled to eight cities to connect with residents and share their stories with the world.
“[The] media scare us [into not] going to see our people on purpose,” she says. “‘Don’t go to Africa or Jamaica’ because . . . , and it’s like, No, go anywhere your people are and gain your own experience.”
During her travels across the Diaspora, she captures with her lens the trauma and needed healing of poverty, intracommunity violence and oppression.
“[For] me, taking photos just archives a history that I’m giving back to our people,” she says passionately. “I am healing through imagery, but I also heal from just going in there and showing [people], in these different areas that don’t get documented, they are worthy and should be acknowledged.”
And when it’s a struggle to keep going, Sensabaugh brushes off the feeling of defeat and moves forward.
“I love being around my people in every condition. Every day that I wake up and see a little empress or a little king, I say to myself, ‘They haven’t even begun to live yet. I’m tired, so I can imagine how they feel,” she says. “But that tiredness I put into something bigger than me. My documentations, if I transition tomorrow, will still be here.”
In A Seat at the Table, singer Solange Knowles’ latest album, which unapologetically flaunts the beauty of melanin, she tells listeners to protect their magic, even though they might have plenty of it.
Similarly, Sensabaugh’s “222 Forgotten Cities” movement speaks to the love for our community and the power released when we use our gifts to shake up the world.
“Even in the most f—-d up areas, we shine the brightest and that is what makes us the most powerful,” she says.
Power to OUR people.
Keep up with the 222 Forgotten Cities movement at brittsense.com.
LaToya “Toi” Cross is the Senior Editor of Entertainment and Culture for EBONY’s Print and Digital brand. You can catch this laughing creative sharing work, art and capturing life via her handle of @ToizStory on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
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