Social Justice in Black Art: The Role of Art/Artists in Redemption or Perpetuation
by Robert Bain
This question is precisely right when we consider images that are created by our artists, be they writers, dancers, painters, film-makers, etc. if there is a matter of who’s vision should and will prevail. I opened with a list of various subjects that could come up and implied our decidedly different takes within a room of the 50 or the 150 or the 1500. Noted together purposely was Gullah Jack and Denmark Vesey as the intention was to say that Denmark Vesey would not exist in the history books without Gullah Jack and the important social justice question is why not [note: artist Najee Dorsey created a Gullah Jack series] when historically we know of Denmark Vesey without any comparable knowledge of Gullah Jack who should loom large in our awareness if the struggle for social justice is what Denmark Vesey represents.
In that regard, I’d ask just what is the social justice [read social benefit] of Elizabeth Catlett’s Sharecropper or Jacob Lawrence’s To Preserve Their Freedom and what could that possibly have to do with what we could today think of Black Lives Matter or the Civil Rights Movement or any of the tangible situations that face a subjugated Black community. I would claim that we derive our sense of justice from what values we take in that then become the basis for how we then assess the secretive Wakanda’s versus reality Oakland’s and again, it is largely it has been our cultural artists that have created our social vision(s) and thereby our values.
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Robert Bain VIEWPOINT
Born: 1949 in Harlem, New York. Attended the State University of New York at Binghamton majoring in African and Afro-American Studies and was awarded a SAGE Graduate Fellowship to Cornell University Africana Studies and Research Center. In 1976, left upstate New York headed to Washington, DC hoping to work with Randall Robinson at TransAfrica but instead ended up in research, media, marketing and advertising; including Research Analyst at Arbitron, National Advertising Director for Black Enterprise Magazine, Media Director for UniWorld Group; with too many etceteras to list. Avid art collector since the 70’s and unabashedly hooked on reading, writing and (no) arithmetic. Married artist Brenda Joysmith January 1, 1994 and have been an active participant in major art venues such as the National Black Fine Art Show and Art Off The Main, etc. as Joysmith/Sunsum Gallery (offering contemporary African, African-American, Asian, Caribbean, Latin-, Native, and South-American artists; along with antique tribal arts and fabrics from across Africa), and mainstream venues as Gallery Sunsum Contemporary Fine Art.
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