Nikki Giovanni was a revolutionary poet of the Black Arts Movement that nourished civil rights. She had a famous dialogue with James Baldwin in Paris in 1971. As a professor at Virginia Tech, she brought beauty and courage by the way of poetry after the shooting there.
Today, she is a self-proclaimed space freak and a delighted elder — an adored voice to hip-hop artists and the new forms of social change this generation is creating.
Check out Ms. Giovanni’s On Being Podcast from August 24, 2017 by clicking below:
Amiri Baraka, the militant man of letters and tireless agitator whose blues-based, fist-shaking poems, plays and criticism made him a provocative and groundbreaking force in American culture, has died. He was 79. His booking agent, Celeste Bateman, told The Associated Press that Baraka, who had been hospitalized since last month, died Thursday at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Perhaps no writer of the 1960s and ’70s was more radical or polarizing than Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), and no one did more to extend the political debates of the civil rights era to the world of the arts. He inspired at least one generation of poets, playwrights and musicians, and his immersion in spoken word traditions and raw street language anticipated rap, hip-hop and slam poetry. The FBI feared him to the point of flattery, identifying Baraka as “the person who will probably emerge as the leader of the Pan-African movement in the United States.”
Baraka transformed from the rare black to join the Beat caravan of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac to leader of the Black Arts Movement, an ally of the Black Power movement that rejected the liberal optimism of the early ’60s and intensified a divide over how and whether the black artist should take on social issues. Scorning art for art’s sake and the pursuit of black-white unity, Barak was part of a philosophy that called for the teaching of black art and history and producing works that bluntly called for revolution.
“We want ‘poems that kill,’” Baraka wrote in his landmark “Black Art,” a manifesto published in 1965, the year he helped found the Black Arts Movement. “Assassin poems. Poems that shoot guns/Poems that wrestle cops into alleys/and take their weapons leaving them dead/with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland.”
No, not every deserving artist gets their first taste of attention through one of the art world’s largest platforms such as the legendary Art Basel show, or the Frieze Art Fair. In particular, African-American artists and other artists of color are still working towards greater visibility in the highest spheres of the rarified art community. Thus, there can never be too many lists bringing attention to the abundance of talented creators on the cusp of discovery who are ready to emerge.
Here are the fresh faces and more established visionaries still gaining ground that you need to know in 2014. The African diasporan artists compiled in the photo gallery above carry forth the traditions set in motion by visual artists from significant eras such as the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement, yet speak with new images and forms that lead us into the future.
With their various approaches to creativity, visual communication, and craft, these artists each examine critical issues of the past, present and future that reflect our shared experiences across the intersecting lines of race, class, gender, sexuality and politics. Through their works, the experiences of those of the African diaspora — and beyond — are critiqued, celebrated and preserved.
Visibility is essential to supporting the continued success of these artists, and ensuring that black artists — who are increasingly gaining recognition — continue to render our images in refined and thoughtful forms from the art world’s center stage. Regardless of whether these artists ever appear at Art Basel, or already have, please keep your eyes to the wall (and in some cases the floor, ceiling, and sidewalks), because you will want to follow these folks, who are the latest provocateurs, innovators and dreamers.
These selections are not ranked in any order to acknowledge equally the importance of each artist’s style — with the awareness that there are likely more great visual “voices” out there who deserve recognition. Click here to see more inspiring art.
Jae Jarrell’s “Urban Wall Suit,” from 1969, recently bought by the Brooklyn Museum.
As the curator of American art at the Brooklyn Museum began work on an exhibition to coincide with next year’s anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she happened on a trove of works from the Black Arts Movement, the cultural arm of the black power movement of the 1960s and ’70s, the New York Times reported.
Noticing that the collection bridged two generations of works already among the museum’s holdings — by earlier African-American artists like John Biggers, Sargent Johnson and Lois Mailou Jones, and by their contemporary successors — the curator, Teresa A. Carbone, persuaded the museum to acquire it.
“Even at a time when people are more aware of the established canon of black artists,” Ms. Carbone said, “these artists are only now gaining the recognition they deserve.”
The collection — 44 works by 26 artists — was assembled by David Lusenhop, a former Chicago dealer now living in Detroit, and his colleague Melissa Azzi. About a dozen years ago the two began buying pieces they felt were prime examples of the Black Arts Movement.