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Art & Social Trauma and the role of Black artists

What does it mean to be a Black artist in the age of social consciousness? The protests, the unrest and the BlackLivesMatter movement is sweeping the nation causing a shift in the national consciousness and shining a light on the disparity of privilege and mass incarceration. Thousands of people are marching in the streets demanding that America, a country built on the premise of civil liberty speak out valiantly that justice and accountability must be afforded to all its citizens equally.
 As an artist and a human being I'm drawn to the visceral affect of the faces I have seen on TV and in protests marches. I am mortified when I see some of the news media demonize and cast protesters as sub-human and not people who are angry, desperate and unable to breathe under the oppression of a system setup for them to live in the margins of society. While we are familiar with this narrative it's important that the images that are thrust in front of us are not just media driven. Is it the responsibility of Black artists and artists of color to respond to social unrest and trauma? Should our artistic practice be in service to the community? I believe so. We know that during the sixties, Black artists were out front illustrating and painting the Black experience.
The notion of how Blacks are viewed is a deeply personal one for me and It should come as no surprise that my work is addressing the latest social trauma polarizing the nation. I've heard many Black artist say, "Why can't I just be an artist?" or  Why do I have to be a Black artist? Some push against it, while others embrace it. A few Black artists have claimed, "It's unfair, this is not asked of white artists!"  It is a pressure they feel is not put on any other group. I don't feel that pressure, but thats me.
Whether, political or romantic Black art is based in our history, the communities we grow up in and our faith, it's inextricably linked to the long history of cruelty and notions of otherness.  The Black experience is complicated, vast, deeply rich and deserves many voices.
Blacks have a shared history, but should this shared history create generations of artists positing the same societal message of Black trauma? Our futures are tied to this country and if only one homogenized narrative is allowed to exist then we as artists are forever placed in a very tight monolithic box unable to breathe

Check out this wonderful article on the Whitney Museum anti-lynching images.
Painting by Barbara Jones Hogu of Chicago and AFRICOBA


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