While mainstream media continues to spotlight negative attention towards people of color, very little is said about true artists in various fields. Artists that collaborate or self-motivate have always been seen as the underdogs to those who take the easy way out. These days, not many artists of color connect with each other, feeling that the industries they work for only have room for a few candidates to succeed. Dynamic duo, Devon Taylor and Daphne Lee, are making an impact in the art world today and are defying odds.
An accomplished Drummer, Actor and Model, Devon Taylor, hailing from Camden, NJ, uses his “inspiration of all art forms” to excel his expression. Currently playing for vocal artist, Nadjah Nicole, Devon spreads his passion by collaborating with artists locally and around the globe. Devon has a need to just make music and teach others on really telling a story. “I am all about art expression” says Taylor, “the story you tell when you’re on stage and when you are able to mentally and emotionally connect with your audience.” Devon even has his own production company where people can request his connections of talent for various events. Just recently, he connected with an NAACP ACT-SO regional gold medalist alumni (like himself), Daphne Lee, who is also a New Jersey native.
A professional dancer who is currently a ballerina for Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, TN, Daphne has always made a statement through other mediums of art via music, speaking engagements, and visual art, but most recently her photographs. “Ever since college, photographers connected with me not only as a dancer, but a ballerina of color to spread awareness of the lack of black female ballet dancers not being exposed in the media”. Even though her resumes extends from working with Beyonce, to being part of Ailey 2, Daphne mentions that there is a bigger purpose to it all.
Devon and Daphne collaborated with Memphis Photographer Ziggy Mack (@fomoloop) to demonstrate that art serves a huge purpose. Music and dance go hand in hand and with these NJ Artist, they want to continue to educate, inspire and mentor future artists of color to collaborate. They are always looking for a platform to connect with other musicians, photographers and visual artists. Follow Daphne and Devon on their careers on all social media platforms and watch their passion create pathways for the next generation.
Instagram: @daphne732 and @devskeerocket
Devon Taylor: Camden, NJ
Daphne Lee: Rahway, NJ
Throughout the developed world African nationals are racing to build sustainable marketplaces for independent designers of Afro-centric inspired fashions. Numerous African inspired Fashion Week events have emerged setting the pulse for this movement. The World Fashion Organization’s agenda is to develop wealth creation and eventually free African societies from a dependency on world aid.
The ambitions of WFO is to foster fashion as a vocation; and further the development of ‘World Fashion’ by helping developing nations improve intercontinental trade. Overall, WFO aims to create a global market place for emerging fashion brands under the theme “We Fashion All”. According to the WFO apparel is the chosen market for economic development in Africa because of the high degree of influence African aesthetics has had in the western markets. “Rather than receiving financial aid from the international community, African nations need help developing commercially viable creative industries. The fashion industry has multiplying chains of vocation, which can create wealth. For example, the clothing industry creates jobs for Apparel Designers, Accessory Designers, Tailors, Weavers, Textile Designers, Pattern Makers, Wardrobe Stylists, Models, Fashion Photographers and Writers etc.”
Models are wearing TeKay Designs, an award winning international fashion label, based in Houston Texas, that offers custom designs and couture bridal gowns, formal attire and statement fashion jewelry. Founded in 1998, TeKay Designs features handcrafted pieces that appeal to those who appreciate elegance with a contemporary twist. The company facilitates production in Ghana, Africa and Houston, Texas.
Crown Collection gowns by TeKayDesigns.com
Photographers: Danny Gbawar, Christina Brown
16 Black Women Activists and Artists We Need To Celebrate
These words were like a vice grip on my soul. I was watching the recently released documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and couldn’t help but be transfixed on the woman. I also couldn’t help but to be forever changed as a writer and artist. Despite heartbreaking personal trials, Nina Simone found significant purpose—arguably, her voice—by writing and singing music that ultimately became the soundtrack of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.
Art, in all its forms, has a way of moving us. A song can stir our hearts until we can do nothing but cry or rage. A painting or photograph can take us so deep inside ourselves that self-awareness and reflection are unavoidable. A poem or novel can immerse us in a world so completely that we inevitably will draw parallels between the characters and our own lives. And despite the fact that in the telling and retelling of the stories of our movements for justice and equality, men figure prominently as protagonists, there have been numerous Black women artists who have hoisted the mantle of leadership onto their shoulders and spoken, sung, written and painted us free.
Here are sixteen Black women artist-activists from across history to whom we must be grateful—for their courage in letting the art speak on our behalf.
“Art is only important to the extent that it aids in the liberation of our people.”
Born in Washington D.C. on April 15, 1915, Alice Elizabeth Catlett’s background as the daughter of an educator and social worker informed her identity as an artist and activist. As a college student at Howard University, Catlett was active in antiwar and labor protests and later participated in desegregation efforts in New Orleans. Her artwork was also reflective of her social and political activism, particularly as it relates to Black women. Her work highlights our strength and resilience despite consistent oppression and communicates in visual terms, our resistance to racism and injustice.
“Slavery has never been abolished from America’s way of thinking.”
Singer/songwriter Nina Simone was a classically trained pianist who always longed to play classical music. However, her purpose was greater than any Bach or Beethoven recital as Simone became the voice of the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. Her profound and heart-wrenching lyrics wrapped in jazz, blues, and folk melodies expressed the frustrations and hope of Black people and resonated with the movement.
“I wear a crown of knowledge, ’cause I’m a conscious queen. My mask is one of happiness, though my history here is full of misery. Done deliberately. I am America’s true statue of liberty.”
An internationally renowned poet, performance artist and publisher, moore is the author of The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses The Ghetto, God is Not an American, Sunlight Through Bullet Holes, and a memoir, Love is Not The Enemy.
As an artist/activist, jessica Care moore has lent her voice to the international fight against AIDS and most recently marched alongside protesters in Ferguson, MO after the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police.
“The black artist is dangerous. Black art controls the ‘Negro’s’ reality, negates negative influences, and creates positive images.”
As an integral member of the Black Arts Movement of the late 60s and 70s, Sonia Sanchez is a poet, activist, and scholar whose work has been a significant force of change and inspiration. The author of sixteen books, she was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University and served as a member of CORE (Congress on Racial Equality).
“There was so much meanness in the atmosphere…but marvelous things pierce through the darkness of poverty and racism. You meet all kinds of people that help put life in perspective and turn the horror into some kind of lesson or avenue of awakening that lives with you all your days.”
Ruby Dee is our elder and now ancestor, in every sense of the words. Her work as an actress in film and theater will live on as a record of her talent. Her work as an activist who, along with her husband Ossie Davis, led civil rights initiatives in and out of the entertainment world, will live on as a record of her passions and convictions. Arguably, it is Dee’s work that allowed for, as The New York Times noted, “the lives of American blacks, both extraordinary and ordinary,” to emerge “as rich subject matter for mainstream theater productions and films, and black performers [to go] from being consigned to marginal and often belittling roles to starring in Hollywood megahits.”
“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”
Zora Neale Hurston was born in the late nineteenth century and was one of the most steadfast and celebrated writers of the Harlem Renaissance. One of her masterpieces of fiction was the seminal novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Her work as a writer and cultural anthropologist sought to shift the perceptions of African Americans but on our own terms. She spoke frankly and fiercely about living in a racist, sexist, and classist culture while maintaining one’s self-esteem and confidence. She was unafraid of “bumping heads” with both white and Black male artists and leaders. Hurston was a critical voice in the art as activism movement.
“A status not freely chosen or entered into by an individual or a group is necessarily one of oppression and the oppressed are by their nature (i.e., oppressed) forever in ferment and agitation against their condition and what they understand to be their oppressors. If not by overt rebellion or revolution, then in the thousand and one ways they will devise with and without consciousness to alter their condition.”
While mostly known for her work as a playwright—giving us classics like A Raisin in the Sun and To Be Young, Gifted and Black—Lorraine Hansberry was the quintessential artist-activist. Her commitment to human rights and equality was reflected in her stories and characters but also in her involvements with the Black liberation movement and feminist organizations. Each play demonstrated a deep commitment to the Black struggle for human rights and equality.
“The white world is feverishly anxious to know of our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. Organization is our strongest weapon.”
Jessie Redmon Fauset was a writer and editor who was extremely influential in the early 20th century as the literary editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis. According to many sources, Fauset was known as one of the most intelligent women writers of the Harlem Renaissance, and was commonly called “the midwife” of that movement. Beyond her own poems and short stories, her position as literary editor allowed her the ability to promote other more well known activist-writers including Langston Hughes, who was first published by Fauset.
“My job is to create a useful legacy.”
Dancer, choreographer, educator, and activist, Dunham used her influence and popularity as the owner of her own dance company and the matriarch of black dance to bring attention to numerous human rights issues. At the age of 83, she went on a 47-day hunger strike in protest of America’s foreign policy against a segment of Haitian immigrants. Her actions brought acknowledgment to the plight of the people and she was awarded Haiti’s highest medal of honor.
“I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”
Much like Ruby Dee, legendary singer/actor Lena Horne used her renown to fight racism in and out of the entertainment industry. The first African American to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio, Horne was not afraid to make major statements in favor of equality for Black people, including filing complaints with the NAACP regarding segregated shows, suing various restaurants for racial discrimination, and aligning herself with Paul Robeson politically as part of the Progressive Citizens of America (she was blacklisted because of it). Most notably, Horne supported the work of the National Council for Negro Women and participated in the March on Washington in 1963.
“The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.”
Caribbean-American writer, feminist and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde, spoke regularly on issues related to oppression, feminism and civil rights. She specifically confronted racism within the work and organizations of white feminists. Her work gained notoriety (and criticism) because of its themes of sexuality and its distinctly revolutionary bent.
“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black: it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.”
June Jordan’s work as a poet and activist was born from the Black Arts Movement of the 60s and 70s. Through her writing, she advocated for the poor and marginalized; she was also a supporter for equal rights for women. Jordan’s words clearly resonate with today’s issues surrounding police brutality. In ”Poem About Police Violence,” she writes: ”Tell me something/what you think would happen if/every time they kill a black boy/then we kill a cop/every time they kill a black man/then we kill a cop/you think the accident rate would lower/subsequently?”
“Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.”
Often called the activist-entertainer Josephine Baker, born in St. Louis, MO, was a singer and dancer who found fame in France in the early 20th century. Baker was staunch supporter of civil rights and spent most of her life fighting racism in some form. She notoriously refused to perform in segregated establishments and working with the NAACP, became a kind of civil rights crusader here in the United States as well as overseas.
“I write for young girls of color, for girls who don’t even exist yet, so that there is something there for them when they arrive. I can only change how they live, not how they think.”
Ntozake Shange is a Black feminist playwright and poet best known for her groundbreaking work, the Obie-Award winning play, for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. Through her plays, essays, novels and poems, Shange often addressed issues in feminism and was fearless in wrestling with “taboo topics” like the sometimes contentious relationships between Black men and women.
“No other creative field is as closed to those who are not white and male as is the visual arts. After I decided to be an artist, the first thing that I had to believe was that I, a black woman, could penetrate the art scene, and that, further, I could do so without sacrificing one iota of my blackness or my femaleness or my humanity.”
Artistically known for her painted story quilts, Faith Ringgold is a true artist-activist in that her political and social activism is evidenced through personal statements in her art—see the American People Series—as well as in her advocacy. She has been a member and leader in several feminist and anti-racist organizations and alongside her equally powerful, artist-activist daughter, Michele Wallace (author of Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman), founded the Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation (WSABAL).
“Everybody now admits that apartheid was wrong, and all I did was tell the people who wanted to know where I come from how we lived in South Africa. I just told the world the truth. And if my truth then becomes political, I can’t do anything about that.”
Makeba, called “Mama Africa,” was a South-African singer who introduced the world to Xhosa and Zulu songs. She actively campaigned against apartheid in South African and had her passport revoked by the government of her homeland as a result. After moving to West Africa with her then-husband, Black Panther, Stokely Carmichael, Makeba was made an official delegate to the United Nations for Guinea and won the Dag Hammarskjold Peace Prize in 1986.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Who would you add to it?
MLNNNYC (Melanin NYC) is a group of Black women whose goal is to uplift and represent the Black woman in a positive light that is not shown in media. They have discussions on what is going on in our culture and how to help or live in current times. They provide relationship advice; hair skin, and nail tips; diet and nutrition; and more.
“We just want to show the world that we are more than what you see on reality TV.”
I See the Pattern Of Hate and Jealousy by Samuel H. Robinson
I walk the streets and I see people who are not me, who want desperately to be me; people who emulate us, but are not us. Whites. People lost in a culture which is uniquely defined by a lack of culture that is actually their own. They carry within themselves a sickness that seemingly permeates all other fair skinned cultures. They abhor us; berate and subjugate us. They want nothing more than to possess everything that we are. We live inherently as our people have lived since the tribes of our ancestors first formed under the skies of Mother Africa.
Their women inject their lips, breast and buttocks with collagen to give themselves the fuller, more attractive figure that our women are naturally born with. They sit under the sun, under lamps, and rub themselves down with chemicals to give themselves the sun-kissed skin that our people have from birth. They lock up their hair, decorate it with beads and jeweled accents and say that it’s a part of the hippie sub-culture; hoping all the while that we blacks will forget that the art of locking hair has its roots in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Ancient Egypt, along with head shaving which was done by us to show status, hair dying which was done by us with henna and yes, even wigs worn by us to protect our hair from sun damage.
How many of these things are we told wrongly by today’s society are meant as expressions of white “culture”? Not meant for us?
Whites have adopted the raised tattoos of our African ancestors. They’ve appropriated ear gauging, nose and lip piercing and stretching, neck stretching, and other manners of body modification which they boldly call “alternative”, “goth” or “punk”, but which were actually introduced by the ethnic peoples of North Africa; the Pedi, the San and even the Zulu.
They take our music.
They take our dance.
They take our food.
They take the clothing and artistic styles that we make unique and make them a part of the white mainstream. They take our speech patterns and turns of phrase. They take our very BLACKNESS.
Yet how many of these things are we told wrongly by today’s society are meant as expressions of white “culture”? Not meant for us?
I see the pattern of hate and jealousy. Do you see it now too?
Samuel H. Robinson | https://www.facebook.com/
Photo: Rachael Arianna
Waiting to Exhale: If you want to end police brutality…
There are way too many people suggesting that we sign kumbaya with our oppressor and not enough folks offering practical solutions that will keep my son from being a target. Let’s get into the three things we must NOT do.
Racism works to their favor. Dismantling white supremacy has no net benefit for those in power. Your Black life has no chance of keeping them in their homes and safely segregated away from us ‘thugs’. White people, even “hip” ones, will never be able to effectively empathize as a collective to a degree that will end racism. After a while, most of them get tired of hearing about race/racism. Getting the oppressor to acknowledge and confront their privilege is an uphill battle with concrete boots. I am often reminded of a quote from Dr. Cobbs and Dr. Grier from the book Black Rage: “slavery was never undone for either the slave or the slave master”. No matter how tempting, DO NOT attempt to appeal to white folk’s morality. STOP replying on white folks to save us.
It won’t end well and nothing meaningful will get accomplished. Many Black nationalist movements are limited by their exclusively intellectual or political nature. So-called experts sit in their offices deciding policies and plans for people who they have never been with or around. Revolutionaries can be guilty of that too. The reason DC’s “Mayor for life” Marion Berry got so much love was that he was among and about the people. He did not have to prove that. It was evident. Similarly, Muhammad Ali was the people’s champ because he sacrificed a great deal with no guarantee of a decent return on investment. He approached people in a manner that did not demean, disregard, or insult them. Unfortunately, there are some folks in the movement who will dismiss your entire existence if you admit to shopping at a big brand store. The head shaking irony to this, however, is blanket condemnation and revolutionary snobbery. STOP looking down on your own people.
Remember, the Montgomery bus boycott lasted over a year and in order to be sustainable, it required the attention and participation of all Blacks. Commitment to real action is key. I know single parents who not only show up to demonstrate, but also make good for protesters and bring blankets and give more than they have physically, spiritually, and financially to end the assault of Black people. It is about more than photo ops. STOP your t-shirt revolutionary brigade. We are more powerful than we realize. In little pockets all over this stolen country, there are high concentrations of Black businesses with strong products and services. There are predominantly non-white neighborhoods where the dollar circulates multiple times. These businesses create jobs, teach people about political/economic power, and strengthen our communities. It is imperative that we learn about and support them (us). Think of how much you spend each week and where those dollars go. Write or type a list of where you spend your money. How many of those places are Black-owned or give something back to the community? For at least one week in the new year, try shopping with Black owned businesses for at least half of your purchases. It is easier than you may think.
But wait, this article is supposed to be about ending police brutality. How is capitalism going to solve that issue? If we can sustain our own communities economically, politically, and every other way, then we will not need their police to ‘protect and serve’. Instead, we can prevent these murders by developing our own financial strongholds. Economic freedom is a big part of being free from police brutality. The police are not killing white soccer moms en masse. This is a critical time where we can truly rise up and make solid demands. In my hometown, they shut down the mall and multiple intersections. We can demand small business grants, tax breaks, land ownership, secession, resources, or whatever else we collectively decide. I am tired of worrying about whether my son will survive his Blackness. I am ready to build with anyone who is serious about stopping these murderers.
Troy Spry is a certified life and relationship coach who uses his platform of blogging, speaking, writing, and facilitating conversations as a way to is a certified life and relationship coach who uses his platform of blogging, speaking, writing, and facilitating conversations as a way to further spread his purpose. His mission is to inspire people to improve themselves so they can become better partners. He ultimately became a certified coach through his blog, which he started after his Mother passed away from Multiple Sclerosis. His mother has been his biggest influence in life; she taught him about character, selflessness, work ethic, and love. As a child Troy dreamed of becoming a professional athlete but he quickly realized he wasn’t as big, strong, or fast as the competition. Troy’s greatest business role models and influencers are Lamar and Ronnie Tyler. They taught him about serving his audience and the business of blogging.
When I asked this man of wonderment if he could interview anyone from his life living or dead, who would it be, ladies wait for it… He said his wife. He’d like to know if he had lived up to her expectations and to see if he has done right behind the message he’s putting out into the world. He’s proud to boast about being a good husband and trying to build a great family. He also let me in on a little secret: Baby #1 is on the way.
NN: Troy, how would you like to be remembered?
TS: I would like to be remembered as a difference maker and one who didn’t just talk it but he lived it, and because of that he had influence on people in life and in love.
NN: If this was to be your very last conversation, is there anything you’d want to say?
TS: I would want to tell my late Mother that I love her and I would thank her for helping me to find my passion and my purpose so that I could help make a difference in the world. Then I would tell everyone to “start with you!”
NN: If you could do anything now, what would you do and why?
TS: I would do just what I am doing now! I’ve found my passion and my purpose and I enjoy every minute of it!
Troy’s accomplishments include being invited to be a staff writer for the award winning website www.BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He was also invited to write for celebrity matchmaker Paul C. Brunson, and was invited by the HuffPost live, were he wrote his first E-Book, Teach Me How To Love; A Man’s Journey Toward and Through Marriage. He is currently working on his first full book, which he has credited as his ultimate accomplishment.
NN: Troy one last question. What lessons has your work life taught you? What was one piece of history that stuck with you?
TS: I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons but the one that is always consistent is that true change starts with SELF. It starts with being willing to engage in some true self-reflection and moving from a victim mentality to a victor mentality. One piece of history that stuck with me was the election of President Obama but not just his election but the representation of his family being the first family. I believe it gave a much-needed model of family and “black love!”
The Cox Family… Take a moment to bask in the beauty of the Black Family! Genuine, beautiful moments, captured in time to be cherished forever! A beautiful example of a loving family swimming in all their natural glory. Speaking of natural, those puffs and braids are divine! They’re making sure their girls love their natural beauty 😉