• Mikala Gibson

Setting the Stage

I’m a black artist. I create black art. I absorb black art. I support bIack art. I analyze it. I live it. I live for it. 

Fortunately I was blessed to be born into a family of writers, singers, actors and visual artists. Their artistic influence started me on this path of art appreciation and exploration. From seeing Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf at the tender age of two, to my daddy surprising me on my 15th birthday with tickets to see a sold out screening of Haile Gerima’s Sankofa - black art has always been a prominent part of my everyday life. When I decided to pursue a career in acting, many well-meaning friends attempted to convince me to consider other careers but my daddy was not having it. “If God called her to be an actor then that is what she will be.”

God definitely called me to be an actor, and a writer, and a director. God called me to be an artist. A BLACK ARTIST.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with brilliant black artists whose work offered more than entertainment, but did not receive “critical acclaim.”  I witnessed these artists in the trenches: fighting the school to prison pipeline, combating the criminalization of black hair and the oversexualization of black girls. These artists often create at the expense of exhausting their personal funds and make life-altering sacrifices for the sake of their art. Art that may or may not see the light of day. Art that may reach the masses or be buried amongst the other work in the black art graveyard. If being a black artist is this taxing, then why be an artist?  Like me, these artists were called by God to create. It is their legend.

As an artist, I believe that the creative process is complex and messy. The explanation for their work is personal so I can’t speak to the intentions of black artists when it comes to a specific masterpiece. That is something you will not see on this platform. However, you will see these artists explain their own work, practice and identity, in their own words. 

I also believe the process of observing art is a personal experience. We all bring our own baggage to that experience, therefore our  opinions may not always align. THAT IS OKAY. 

What you will see on this platform are my reflections and reactions to black art, as well as a dialogue with black art appreciators.  The conversation that these artists initiate leads to deeper reflection, which leads to action. This is the intersection of art and activism. This is artivism. 

Years ago I had a blog on my acting website that I intended on using to promote my acting work, but I ended up blogging about art and its impact instead.  Needless to say that the blog did very little for my acting career, but it did inspire me to keep going during some very dark times. 

Fast forward to the current global pandemic. People (including artists) were losing their jobs and trying to adapt (still are) to social distancing, zoom calls and living without physically connecting with family and friends. Then art happened: D-Nice was doing his sessions on Instagram, Jordan Cooper used Zoom to create the short film Mama Got a Cough, and Ya’Ke Smith created the anthology series, The Pandemic Chronicles, again using Zoom and FaceTime, from his garage. BLACK ART WAS POPPIN’! It still is. 

Then, George Floyd was killed. Black artists responded. Murals on the street, photographs of protesters, short films, songs, spoken word. Art that made the world listen. 

Many are witnessing what I’ve known for years - Black Art is not just entertainment. It is a tool to galvanize community, spark conversation and combat stereotypical, eurocentric accounts of our struggle. 

My goal with The Black Artivist Collective is to highlight these practitioners who are brave enough to create art that addresses oppression and social injustice. They’ve been overlooked, undervalued and underestimated for too long. Now is the time for these artists to be celebrated. Now is the time for their art to be shared. Now is the time for Black Artivisim!!!!

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