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THE POWER OF BLACK ARTISTRY


Written by Karl Blevins
Graphic by Brandon Castelo
August 06, 2020


“In time I learned a few lessons, never fall for riches

Apologizes to my true sisters, far from b--ches

Help me raise my Black nation, reparations are due

It's true, caught up in this world I took advantage of you

So tell the babies how I love them, precious boys and girls

Born black in this white man's world”


-Tupac Shukur 

Artists hold the power to shift the culture in a single pen. With no regard for race, gender, or sexuality music is a universal language. The emotion experienced by a syncopated beat or desire to sing a catchy phrase aloud is relatable to everyone. Even in denial of Mary J. Blige vocal ability I wouldn’t dare miss the end of Be Without You. “hey ah hey heyyyyyyyyyyy”!

There is power in music, and our culture is no stranger to addressing the issues in the world around us. A basic singer is no longer substantial. If you are not an artist you simply will not make it in the industry. And more now than ever, if you grab a mic have something to say. Millions Billions of individuals are called to attention by a favorite artist’s project release. All eyes and ears are immediately focused on one moment. The artists who take this moment and create a movement, separate the artists from the icons. Tupac Shukar’s words address privilege and misogyny in a revolutionary way. The disenfranchised, poor community members who may not reflect on the system become socially conscious of the world around them. It is not that they were previously unaware, but there is an individual using a different language to communicate the sentiments of their experiences.

(This man is shaking the tables.) Absolutely. Black is King, the most recent visual album released by Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, resulted in astronomical amounts of controversy. How dare she hone in on her blackness after we worked so hard to make her appeal to all demographics? This piece beautifully displays black culture and attempts to mend the bond between Black Americans and their African roots. This piece reiterates our history not being subjected to slavery. Although afro-futuristic and fictional in much of its imagery, Black is King speaks to the black community’s bond by a construct formally referred to as Uncle Sam. Yes, there are systematic restrictions placed on our community, but we cannot negate our true power. We will ALWAYS find our way back. Back to unity. Back to entrepreneurship. Back to collectivism. Our sheer ability to exist and create is against the white man’s narrative of our people. Mrs. Carter’s piece is a form of social resistance.

The question was asked, how do we turn this moment into a movement. I believe the power lies in our creatives to create bodies of work changing the ineffective language previously used. When we begin to imagine a world without prejudice, we can begin to address the systems which keep us bound. Wale, Janelle Monae, Lauryn Hill, J-Cole, Nas, and Queen Latifah accepted the call. Who’s next?