It’s not just important to celebrate black history in February, it’s important to make black history.
Black artists deserve to support each other knowing that in so many areas including art, black folks have historically been pushed to the margins and out of the mainstream.
Though we aren’t always depicted that way, the black community is supportive and encouraging as we tend to gravitate toward each other's work and presence not just for the comfort it provides but because it’s important.
As the child of two Jamaican Immigrants, I grew up in Queens, New York where there were
plenty of black kids who were talented and artistic. We had teachers who tried their best to
inspire and help us explore our creativity and avenues for success, but who didn’t necessarily
hold the keys to the opportunities we needed to become successful. They taught us techniques and skills. We visited art schools and galleries, but we were not all necessarily ready for the complications surrounding entrance and acceptance into the art world.
My family thought that by me seeking an art career, I would end up with much less than
deserved because what they saw in common representations of art and artists, didn’t look like me and that led them to believe very few spaces were available for young black women to become successful artists.
As we move forward in contemporary times, I seek to be an example, among other black artists making waves in the art world, for young black practicing artists and creatives of the unity that we are capable of. Of strength in persistence, and of strength in numbers.
I believe that it’s not just important to celebrate black history in February...it’s important to make black history.
...we tend to gravitate toward each other's work and presence not just for the comfort it provides but because it’s important.
It’s great to be around other black female artists, especially if their work is also abstract. I admit that I’ve even had fangirl moments when I do. Those occasions stay in my memory, even years later. For instance, I still remember the time when Carrie eagerly commented on one of my paintings at the Members’ Winter Show in 2019. What if those moments of enthusiasm were multiplied?
What would the art world look like if black artists connected with and supported one another locally, nationally, and globally? It’s possible with the internet and social media. I've made a more conscious effort to follow other black artists on Instagram, for instance.
How much wisdom could be passed down from established artists to emerging ones? What a variety of philosophies and artistic methods could be shared! We could learn about black artists who have been left out of art history books. What a sense of belonging we would feel; we deserve that feeling! It could inspire the next generation to pick up their stylus, brush, pen, or chisel and become practicing artists. This coming together of black artists has happened in the past and continues in multiple forms today. To me, this is a part of Afrofuturism.
This unity not only helps us as black artists but the art world overall. There have always been and continue to be black artists from all walks of life making good work. By coming together, we remind the world that we are and have always been here. We remind everyone, regardless of colour, that the art world is bigger than they thought and that they can be a part of it. Seeing people who look like you are doing what you dream of doing is powerful; it shows you what’s possible. We can pave the way for future black artists and audiences, affirming that they belong, too.
The more we come together, the easier it will be to see our diversity. Black artists, as with all black people, are not a monolith and black art takes on many forms, subjects and comes from many points of view. There is a range of creativity for us to be inspired by and contribute to, both past and present.
The footprints of those who’ve gone before leaving a trail for those that follow. Those marks aren’t erased just because February is over. We’ll still be here, supporting each other because we need and deserve that feeling.