The emergence and influence of Black arts in America is the sister of the Black Power Movement. It is the creation of a self-contained universe that needs neither permission, affirmation, or validation from the larger predominantly white society to exist and flourish spiritually.
Black art is the primary means for preserving pieces of our past that are ignored, or marginalized by a hostile, hateful or indifferent America that would rather forget or deny its truth than be reminded of her own lack of sensitivity.
But even more importantly, Black art provides a platform for the celebration of the exquisite and incomparable intellect, beauty, ingenuity, creativity, strength and moral consciousness of people relegated to second class citizenship by law and yet still rose, and continue to rise, above the most disparaging, sadistic and damning elements.
Toni Morrison adamantly defied the premise of being Black in America relying on the way in which white America interacts or refuses to engage people of the Africana Diaspora. She refused to limit her stories to the race crisis saying, Black artists have to uplift “the love, the life, the magic” of Black Americans.
The Black Power Movement allowed us to imagine ourselves in the fullness of who we are. It demonstrated that we can raise our voice without worrying about appeasing or even involving whiteness.
Dr. Morrison said, “It is as though they believe our lives have no meaning and no depth without ‘the white phase.’ I have spent my entire writing career trying to make sure ‘the white phase’ was not the dominant theme in any of my books.”
Black arts take seriously our rhythm of life – our speech, our patterns, our nuance, our cadence, our dreams, our resilience, our indomitable faith and will.
Black arts deny the delusional misnomer of Black autonomy; that we can’t think independently of one another. Black people can be unified in their common quest for freedom without being unanimous in every perspective and interpretation of our experience; shared visions – diverse expressions.
Black art is evidence of the layers of Black culture that make each of us as unique as snowflakes, fingerprints, DNA, even though there is a spiritual thread woven between us all that can never quite be explained or broken.
On a different but related note, a few more thoughts for your consideration concerning Black History Month!
- Please stop complaining about how tired you are of hearing about the past. That is the lament of fools. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.
- Forget about how short the month of observation happens to be. Some of you won’t dedicate 28 minutes to your heritage, much less 28 days. And no one is stopping you from celebrating the other 11 months of the year.
- White brothers and sisters, stop acting like you don’t get the need for a separate celebration of Black history. When our story is included accurately in the history books, and those textbooks are used to teach all students, we can reopen that conversation.
- Black history should inspire. Use lessons from the past to understand the present and navigate the future. We owe it to the ancestors who came before us and the children who follow. If young people knew they were Kings and Queens, they would act more like royalty!
- Stop doting on the negative aspects of being Black, how put down we are as a race; how we can be our own worst enemy, or how far we still have to go. Just for a moment, embrace the BEST of us.
- Being BLACK is an adjective, noun and verb. The noun is simply what you are at birth, being of the African Diaspora. The adjective is the kind of Black person you determine in your mind to become. And the verb is commitment to striving to be your best self and to lift as you rise!
- If nothing else, recognize that you are WONDERFULLY made in the Lord’s image. Learn to love yourself, your brothers and sisters, people of all other races and persuasions and, most importantly, God who created us all! YOUR BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL!
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].