You can’t stop a speeding train, and we’ve been racing and outpacing the horse of white supremacy every day in every way. We are witnessing the changing of the guard visually via Black art.
While pasty flesh has been the standard of beauty, women of color have dealt with a dearth of makeup options, products giving us that casket fresh look in Black art. Death does not become her, so Rihanna developed her Fenty line exclusively for Sephora, offering a vast array of shades previously ignored by the mainstream. The beauty industry has long considered dark skinned women a non-factor, yet the high-quality Fenty sells out several times over. Immediately, other brands—like that of culture vulture Kylie Jenner—peddled their own colors without the research necessary to make the case, simply embarrassing themselves. They can no longer tell us what’s right for us when we are making it for ourselves.
Black art can be music as well. Another musical juggernaut, Beyonce broke the rules when she released her album at midnight with no marketing, selling 617,000 in three days and debuting at number 1 on the Billboard 200. Her unapologetically Black performance at the SuperBowl scared the Beejezus out of white people, proving she wasn’t the safe Negro they thought she was and she was going to speak for her people. Because she’s Black, damn it! Then she raised the bar again with her multiple award-winning visual album Lemonade, a cultural masterpiece for her “Formation” Tour. More than a pretty song and dance gal, Beyonce’s new Ivy Park athleisure line focuses on products making women feel good, with her sold-out ballcap specially designed for big hair, as the natural hair movement for Black women grows exponentially. No one is doing it like Beyonce, certainly nobody white.
LeBron James has pushed things forward as much as his new hairline since he came into the NBA. From his initial activation of the legendary Big Three championship team before making his move back to Cleveland, everything he does is on his terms, no matter how much money they tried to throw his way. When he brought Cleveland their first championship, no one could deny his worth. That’s how he can get away with wearing an “I can’t breathe,” shirt. This Black art is respected and encouraged. Childhood friend and business partner Maverick Carter orchestrated LeBron’s historic Billion dollar lifetime deal with Nike, the largest celebrity apparel deal ever, in addition to their Warner Brothers partnership, and so much more. True domination on and off the court.
Whites thought the comic book world was theirs and have offered their little token characters throughout the years in the name of diversity, but it’s been proven that we dominate the industry of comics and Black art. Geeks wailed when the ultra-Black Luke Cage crashed Netflix upon premiere and shed more white tears as news circulated of Creed’s Ryan Coogler directing Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther. Oprah Winfrey Ava Duvernay—originally tapped to direct Black Panther—have proven an unstoppable team in television and their upcoming fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time will further solidify their dominance in the film industry.
Black art, films in general, has seen the temperature change as 2017’s surprise hit Girls Trip was the first film produced, written, directed and starring Black people to cross the $100M mark. Just a big ol’ Black affair despite the studios’ hesitance to produce films with this colorful a set of hands involved.
Black art has the potential to save lives. Saving Black lives matters the most and Dr. Hadiyah Nicole Green is the superhero who received a $1.1M grant to continue development of a process with the potential to help in the evolution of a cutting-edge cancer treatment using laser-activated nanoparticles. Others may benefit from her discoveries, but she also founded the Ora Lee foundation to make sure that cancer treatments are affordable to real people, i.e. more of us than they would like.
Money has always stunted our growth in the business of Black art, but we now have greater access to capital for starting businesses thanks to VC’s like Paul Judge, the founder of Tech Square Labs which provides co-working, funding and community events to help tech founders start, scale, and build meaningful companies. Jason Towns is the founder of Groundwork, a $10 million hybrid accelerator and venture fund that connects and nurtures minority-owned startups across the country. He also facilitated the Entrepreneur in Residence Program at CODE2040, a partnership with Google that gives funding to startup founders of color with the support and space to work on business ideas full-time with a commitment to give back to their local tech community of color. Paying it forward ensures our domination continues!
With Silicon Valley being a white boy’s club, women and minorities are often left out of the room. How does Black art and how do Black people get the opportunities to break into the tech world? Emile Cambry Jr. founded the nonprofit tech incubator Blue1647 which trains in computer languages and provides much-needed co-working space for business owners to grow their tech startups. Emile knows the limitations in our communities and set
up shop in several across the country in impoverished neighborhoods to provide students with opportunities otherwise unavailable, closing the digital divide.
Black art helps us to understand that we understand our buying power now more than ever, and the #BankBlack movement is in full swing. Atlanta’s Citizen Trust Bank opened 8,000 accounts of over $1M in deposits in just 5 days, further proof of our faith in ourselves. Miami’s One United Bank has a “second chance” program to allow those in ChexSystems an opportunity for their own checking account, keeping our money out of the evil check cashing stores. Pooling our money, building Black-owned banks only improves our economy. Keeping our money in the family means we are in the position to fund programs, get car loans, support our start-ups, help each other buy homes. We strengthen the family units and there’s nothing anyone can do about it!
They are no longer the gate-keepers, there is a changing of the guard. We are not catching up, we are running straight past those who meant to hold us back. As we continue to break barriers and keep supporting black art and culture, we also change the narrative of what it means to be Black. We are AFRIKIN!
Written by Afrikin
Monique A. Williams is a writer, taste-maker and influencer from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Her words line bookshelves across the country and populate web searches with IndieWire bylines and uncredited work alike. She has had opportunity to interview notable figures like MC Lyte, Paradise Gray of X Clan, Omar Tyree and Reagan Gomez-Preston.
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