All people are similar in the sense that we want to share ourselves in what we do. Everybody wants to share their experiences in a way that shows their beauty. This is where art comes in. You can’t go anywhere without seeing the influence of Black people in art. From your favorite TikTok to your favorite track, Black art has been there.
Black culture is one of the most influential, multifaceted things that have been created. The Black experience in and of itself is a unique one, with the many barriers and struggles that come with being Black. One of the main issues that I have come across with existing while being Black is the constant feeling of suppression when it comes to expression. There are systems in place that are designed for the purpose of shrinking down Black people and the Black experience into one singular entity (which is usually negative), to fit white narratives. Black art allows Black people to express all aspects of themselves in a way that furthers what being Black can be.
I saw my first piece of Black art when I was 7. It was an Ernie Barnes painting called “Sugar Shack.” There was something in it that invoked some sense of pride. Black people were just dancing, nothing but pure joy in each face. This was something that I would see at family gatherings, school functions, but never in mainstream media. There was something about that painting that invoked a sense of pride, in my own identity, my own Blackness.
I’ll never forget the first time I read “Static Shock.” It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a Black superhero, but it was the first time I read a Black superhero comic by a Black artist. The artwork and lines the characters said felt authentic, not what a white person thought a Black person should act like.
The fact that it was a Black creator made it much more impactful. It showed me that Black people could, at the very least, have control over our own narrative. We are more than what racist institutions have painted us as and tried to force us to believe we are. It’s one of the reasons I’m here today, it constantly inspires me to keep moving forward, to keep creating a new narrative of Blackness to inspire someone else.
With Black art also comes the potential for Black unity. Black music is another art form that has transcended race, it’s something that has reached out on a global scale. One of the most popular forms of Black music, hip hop, was created from Black people’s need for self-expression. Black art not only tells the many stories of Black people and the universal aspects of the Black experience, but it also allows for new perspectives and experiences to be born. It allows for the concept of Blackness and Black culture to expand. For Black people to be a constantly evolving group of people.
You can’t go anywhere in the world today without Black art being seen or heard. Even modern, white-dominated genres like rock and roll originated from Black artists. Without Black art, many of the cultural norms that people enjoy today simply would not exist. Black art is one of the founders of today’s modern mainstream media. Most, if not all of American culture is tied to or inspired by Black art and culture.