We say things like “representation,” “diversity,” and “inclusion.” We say we want to have more stories that share the full spectrum of people living in the world. But we hardly realize the reason for those requests. Even still, those stories are not fully integrated to cross cultures or exist as commonplace. Even myself, who has long recognized this need, only recently realized the epiphany that solidifies the request. Only recently did I see an image that inhabits the minds of people that justify and explain away their racism.
I had an interesting sequence of events this Saturday past. I found myself glued to a basic program on ABC, just after they had aired a new sportscast, recounting the first Ali-Frazier fight. I was stuck on a show whose name I already forgot. I think it was Soul of a Nation or Living while Black. Regardless, there was a brief moment that present a drawn image of a Black man. I don’t know if that simple image was intended as such, but it seemed angry. Based on the narration on top of it, this image was also presented as the common face that most people accept as the default Black stance. In seeing this, for some reason, my mind went to the Artist: those Black people whom I’ve always accepted but never truly understood. I recognize the story they tell and the reception they await, but apparently I had never understood the reason for their creativity. Until seeing this image, I had not dwelled on their need to create and exist as an artist. Whether it was lost in the abstract portrayal or in my inability to spend time in discourse over their Art, I never gave myself the time to give flesh to those feelings.
This simple image forced me to think about a friend of mine. I felt a deeper connection to him because all these platitudes began to connect. While he may see the diversity in his own culture and race, he also sees the poor images and portrayals from the mess of a melted pot, this country has become. For me, Artistry and creativity is a step away from culture, a distance so as not to be defined or criticized through a specific lens. However, Wes (and just about every other Artist), uses the medium to create a firm grasp on those features that define him; the medium challenges all previous suppositions, notions, and ideas. Wes continually shows the world that what you think a Black man looks like cannot be limited to a simple image.
Before that day, I was adamant about writing for the audience and — although I embody creating for the self — I rarely hold onto the impact of culture, race, and personal background for the Artist. Now, I can do no less than recognize the need for every Artist to create their place in the world because no one else can do it for them.