My exit project focuses on black men, giving special attention to topics such as socio-economic hardship, police violence, and black perseverance. I produced bibliographies on painters Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, and Kadir Nelson, as well as rap artists Lil Wayne and Master P. I also produced annotations on Black Thought and Vic Mensa. Producing this project gave me a chance to learn about and draw connections to a range of topics such as black men and violence, police brutality, drugs, and hardship.
The importance of studying the bibliographies of these black artists in various mediums is that they seek to use their respective art to frame and bring to light the issues faced by black men and the black community, such as discrimination, violence, drugs, fear of the police, and broken families. In the written medium, poems by Langston Hughes and Robert Hayden, as well as the short stories by Edward Jones, reflect the concepts of black identity and life living as black men, facing abuse, being disadvantaged from an early age, and facing what seems like an eternal struggle, stuck in a cycle of violence, poverty, and death. Through painters such as Kehind Wiley and Amy Sherald, the traditional image of the black men was presented in unique ways that shattered social stereotypes and perceptions by placing them in unique contrasts and settings highlighting the diversity and potential queerness that some black men may choose to exhibit. Meanwhile, the rappers, both pop songs, and freestyle, express the modern hip-pop cultural trends and concerns of the black community, discussing the issues at hand in metaphoric and hyperbolic form, but touch on the concepts of poverty, drugs, street gang violence, and others, but emphasizing the ability to break out. As can be seen through all these cultural and artistic mediums, black artists sought to represent and illuminate the relevant issues to black men at their respective times or contexts, such as surviving in neighborhoods where violence and police abuse are common, figuring out how to find work and feed their families, and dealing with addictions, mental health, and other personal challenges.
The second reason of the importance of studying the bibliographies is because through the artists’ own lives as well as the stories they tell through painting, songs, and poems represent the voices of black culture in the context of socioeconomics and politics of the world, primarily the significant challenges faced by black people and communities. The bibliographies seek to highlight some evident examples of these issues in black culture, not just the discrimination and poverty, but some of the more nuanced and complex elements such as family dynamics, queerness, addictions, and personal struggles. Some of the common themes that are evident, however, are black men persevering and fighting on, finding solutions to challenge the status quo, breaking out of the cycle of poverty, or even simply finding ways to live. The freestyle rappers such as Black Thought and Little Vic talk about the struggles and breaking through the glass ceilings when so many black men are left behind. By bringing to light the challenges faced by black men from the very origins of the culture in America, these artists and others attempt to highlight the significant contemporary injustices.
The bibliographies provided a diverse and introspective insight into the history, culture, interactions, and growth of black men in America. This was an effective method since it allowed to explore a variety of different mediums and works over a short period of time. Much of what occurs for black men and the black community stems from its troubled past, as was explored in this project through the poems of Langston Hughes. Drawing the connections between the sufferings of the past and the challenge of the contemporary provides an eye-opening experience on the fundamentals of race relationships in America. People can learn more also by engaging greater with black culture through multiple mediums and attempting to understand the authors’ meanings in their various works.
One thing I learned myself about as a writer and researcher producing this project is that I strive to make connections. I strive to make connections to find answers to these complex questions, and societal problems that were seen through the issues talked about in the bibliographies. It is almost like a detective, but I believe that by making connections, people can be helped, and potential answers can be found to equality and justice needed in society. I learned about myself that I can be curious, that I am insightful, and that I care about these bigger issues, something that I have not come to realize before. I did not know this about myself before because I was not really given the opportunity to explore themes such as this in an assignment that pushed me to think outside the traditional frames of perception. I hope to use my insightfulness to better myself and my community.