#WhileBlack
Race relations in America

John Akomfrah / Purple (still)

America has had its complicated history. From its early colonialist exchanges with the natives, through the history of slavery of Africans, the McCarthy era, the Cold War, diversity and segregation, racism and its love of arms, and now the rise of a new populism which seems to appeal to the base instincts of our humanity, or the lack thereof.

At once a great nation and an enigma of the highest order, America is a thing of extremes as seldom seen elsewhere, a contradiction unto itself, and a force to contend with.

Once again, the movements of #WhileBlack and Black Lives Matter have been invoked by the swift succession of recent incidents reminding us that the pandemic is not solely from without.

As if the institutionalized violence against the black population were not enough, we witness again the police summoned to intervene on individuals doing perfectly ordinary things: sitting on a porch, jogging in their neighborhood, driving a car, taking a nap in their dormitory lounge, birdwatching… doing mundane things, but simply while black. Calling the police on these individuals must have required a fear and mistrust of others and a curious brand of courage which may clinically deserve a name. We commend the authorities on the many of these incidences where they found no wrong doing on the part of the suspects, who in reality were the actual victims of racial discrimination, or simply being human, while black. On the other hand, fresh incidents of brutality on the part of the police continue to resurface, from rookies to retired members, and the many on highly active duty in between. It seems we still have a long way to go.

From National Geographic’s recent launch of The Race Issue to the photo essay in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the exposé on Haitian Art following the U.S. President’s disparaging remarks on black majority nations, to James Baldwin’s collaboration with Richard Avedon in Nothing Personal reissued by Taschen, we continue the conversation on race relations. Today we survey some artists, in America and beyond, who have created, inspired, and engaged, while black.

 

John Akomfrah

John Akomfrah

Jalan & Jibril Durimel

Jalan & Jibril Durimel

Jalan & Jibril Durimel

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu

RaMell Ross /  Hale County This Morning, This Evening (still)

RaMell Ross /  Hale County This Morning, This Evening (still)

RaMell Ross /  Hale County This Morning, This Evening (still)

Frank Walter, King Size Soul, n. d., Photo: Axel Schneider

Frank Walter, installation view MUSEUM MMK FÜR MODERNE KUNST, Photo: Axel Schneider

Tyler Mitchell, Boys of Walthamstow, 2018

Tyler Mitchell, Idyllic Space (still)

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson

Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor

Camille Norment

James Baldwin & Richard Avedon / Nothing Personal

Lawrence Jacob / Studio Museum Harlem

Kapwani Kiwanga, Matières premières, 2020, Photo: Axel Schneider
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