What Would a World Reimagined by Black Artists Look Like?

From New York to Spokane and a dark scattering of other U.S. cities in between, Black Lives Matter murals are cropping up and, for the reasons you’d assume, being defaced. Meanwhile, there’s an unprecedented (fam, have you too used the word unprecedented an unprecedented number of times lately?) rise in demand for work created by black artists. From this, we might conclude that the current moment has returned black art to the spotlight. We’d welcome such news. But, before we break out our very best bourbon, no matter how badly we’d like to forget, we have to remember that no booze is powerful enough to numb the reality that black artists people, even those “at the very top of the game,” in industries ranging from fashion to theatre to publishing and beyond, are still not regarded or treated in a manner that mirrors white peers.  

That said, we know your mamas raised you to support black creatives and we need you to keep doing so. So, after you place those online orders, try to respond to any delays with pride and understanding, rather than frustration and negative reviews. Collectively we must respect the hustle of black artists who are trying to respond to an unprecedented number of (and probably dis-proportionally annoying) requests from Beccas who are temporarily eager to push their coins towards black owned businesses and artists. Y’all. We have to be patient and bite our tongues. For the culture. Note: you’re not alone if you find this challenging. Inhale and find some inner serenity with this BIPOC-centered meditation app.

As the Confederate-centric Mississippi flag is yanked from its post, black artists have been asked to imagine a new Mississippi flag that speaks to the direction this country is –we pray– heading. Whether you believe the changing of the flag is performative, too-little-too-late-late, or a sign of progress, it’s inspiring to witness black visionaries reimagining our world. 

When hasn’t it been inspiring to see black visionaries’ reimagine this world? We owe black persistence, survival and art to our resourcefulness and ability to recreate, rebuild, redefine and reimagine. Black Chick Media is curious, if you could ask black creatives to recreate, reimagine, rebuild, remake, replace, or re-insert-verb-of-your-choice-here anything, what would it be? What are you recreating and reclaiming? What’s on your Black Futures Month list?

Below we’ve reimagined Nina Simone’s ever appropriate Mississippi Goddam as a text between her and the perpetually immature, unnecessarily violent, responsibility avoiding, “leather wearing in the summer-time,” United States of America. Enjoy.

Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddamn Reimagined as a Text

This Post is Absolutely Not for Amy Cooper

Picture of protesters.

Gunshots. Shattered Glass. Grenades. Tear Gas. Grief.

Celebrations of violence—from the stablest genius of them all. 

Today has been another long day of a long week of a long month of a long year of a long legacy of persistent injustice and active anti-black racism. We aren’t going to recap the news here but our hearts swell, ache, and beat for the black lives that have been, and continue to be, snatched from our hands and tossed away from this world. 

From Minneapolis to Louisville to Atlanta and beyond, folks are using their rage to organize, yell, cry and respond to the fact that following the rules of survival doesn’t mean you’ll survive. Whether calling Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, or finding beautiful ways to honor, remember and take action for George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, there are many ways to try to cope with the reality we live in. At Black Chick Media, we hope you’ll also do your part, no matter how big or small, to demand that this reality change.  

Start with How to Help Demand Justice for George Floyd, which names donation-worthy organizations, ways to help the Floyd, Arbery, McDade and Taylor families, and tips for taking action and demanding police accountability. Make sure you’re having real conversations with children. Read and write poetry. Check your racial equity toolkit. Carve Breonna’s name into a tree. 

Do your thing. Make your art. Challenge your environment. We’ll do the same.

Resources Toni Morrison Would Want Artists & Art Lovers to Know About Right Now

Image created using Angela Radulescu’s 2008 public domain photo of Toni Morrison.

Not long after George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election, Toni Morrison found herself overwhelmed with a gloom that left her pen parched. Her mind flat. Her novel paused. 

In a moment that epitomizes her enduring relatability, she confided to a friend that she simply could not write. A morose writer’s block, directly linked to the direction the country was heading, paralyzed her mind in new ways. The friend did not respond with sympathy, but rather urged Toni to persist, yelling: “No! No, no, no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!”

Toni swallowed her dear friend’s point and confessed that she later felt like a fool as she “recalled the artists who had done their work in gulags, prison cells, hospital beds; who did their work while hounded, exiled, reviled, pilloried. And those who were executed.” 

We know that artists prevail through disaster. As you stumble and freeze in your own work, it is important that you give yourself space to mourn and do nothing. Then wipe your face and try to do something. Repeat this cycle as often as necessary. Not because the world needs you to create, but because you need you to create. 

As we navigate this new normal, in which it is increasingly difficult to decide whether the sky is still or has already finished falling, remember that being isolated doesn’t equate to being alone or unsupported. Turn your back to the pandemic—and squint—until a glimpse of another future comes into view. 

Carry Toni’s message with you: “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.” And see the below resources that exist to offer artists a little bit of salvation, when so much seems unsalvageable. 

Resources for Artists

The below is a far leap from exhaustive. There are many other organizations offering funds to impacted artists. Review these lists from the Los Angeles Times and WomenArts and conduct your own searches, too.

Support Individual Artists and Institutions

  • Buy merchandise online. Consider purchasing from black creatives here or here. Black Art in America has more expansive suggestions. 
  • Hire artists to complete projects
  • Attend (…and buy tickets for!) online performances, panels and exhibitions
  • Resist the urge to ask for refunds for cancelled shows
  • Think outside of the box. Is there a musician you could hire to perform some of your mother’s favorite jams via Zoom this Mother’s Day? 

Show Support and Send Over That Green

If you’re in a position to elevate and contribute to the arts financially, some donation-worthy art organizations and initiatives are:

Show Support Without Touching That Wallet