Protection of Complexion​​​​


​​On July 22, 2018​​

18-year-old Nia Wilson and her sister Letifah Wilson, were attacked in an unprovoked stabbing while transferring trains at the McArthur BART station. It was reported that 27-year-old John Cowell, a white man from Concord, had stalked the Wilson sisters on BART before stabbing them both in the throat with a knife and fleeing the scene. Letifah's wounds were not fatal but Nia died on the scene. The following day, Cowell was arrested riding the BART train after a rider recognized him and called the police. In the Nia Wilson case, criminal proceedings have been suspended after Cowell's attorney questioned his mental health and competency to help her in the trial. It was reported that Cowell was placed in a psychiatric hold – 22 times since 2012 to his arrest in July.

A sticker of 18-year-old Nia Wilson is seen on the dash board inside of Noey Guess' car in West Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. All photos taken on 35mm film.

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Nia Wilson's death shook the community of Oakland. The community is also facing the impact of rapid gentrification, which is pushing people of color out of the homes they grew up in. This portrait-focused series titled, Protection of Complexion, highlights individuals who are directly affected by the death of Wilson, 
in a city they feel is neglecting the black community.​​

*This is an ongoing project* 

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Brandii Powell poses for a photo in East Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018.

"You could tell [police] weren't looking for [Cowell] because they found him on the platform on the BART station," said Powell. "It shows that nothing [has] changed since Martin Luther King and Malcolm X fought for civil rights, everything is just more filtered – more dressed up I guess."   
Derek Monroe, 27, poses for a photo inside of his car near the Coliseum BART station in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018.

"It's crazy that [black people] can't ride public transportation without looking over their shoulder.
There used to be a lot of more African Americans out here [in Oakland] but we get targeted. We get the maximum sentences and victimized with hate crimes like they did to my cousin [Nia]." Monroe hopes a mural is painted of Nia at the McArthur station. "She lost her life at that BART and people get to go in and out – she didn't get to leave."
Noey Guess, 28, poses for a photo in West Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.

"Even though I don't know her, that's my sister – that's me. That could have been me," said Guess. "You see how police handled the man who murdered Nia Wilson. They [arrested] him with one or two cops, easily, with no tackle, no gun to the head.. You'd think, how could someone get away with certain things? But they have the protection of complexion."