Black History Month is a time for us to all recognize and uplift the voices and achievements of all Black individuals. An aspect of Black history that I want to focus on is the historical use of art as an outlet for showcasing Black pride and the Black experience. As a multi-faceted vessel for creative expression, art can also be used to confront the inequality and injustice of oppressive systems, while serving as a source of comfort for those who live within these systems.
In honor of Black History Month, I want to highlight and celebrate the contributions of some of the Black creatives of today spanning the fashion, photography, storytelling, art, and dance industries who are inspiring many with their work.
Ashley C. Ford
Ashley C. Ford is a writer, podcaster, and educator on Skillshare. She was also named one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30 in Media” in 2017.
She often discusses such topics as sexuality, race, and body image in her writing. Her words are so powerful and thought-provoking that I oftentimes find myself re-reading them once more and pausing to appreciate her writing. Each sentence that she pens evokes such vivid imagery and visceral emotions for readers, particularly her personal pieces such as: “My Father Spent 30 Years in Prison. Now He’s Out”
I highly recommend checking out her brilliant New York Times Bestselling memoir titled Somebody’s Daughter.
Deun Ivory is a Los-Angeles based photographer, creative director, and wellness visionary. She has photographed campaigns for such notable brands as Apple, Glossier, Puma, and Nike along with covers and editorial shoots for The New Yorker and CRWN mag. Upon scrolling through her Instagram feed, I absolutely fell in love with her stunning photographs and portraits of women of color. Her work exudes such a dreamy and ethereal quality that uplifts and empowers her subjects.
She’s also the founder of the body: a home for love, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and a space for Black women healing from sexual trauma.
Amina Mucciolo is a visual artist, designer, and content creator.
Their colorful candy-colored Instagram feed never fails to brighten up my day and almost always makes me want to spontaneously swap my neutral-colored clothing in favor of wearing every color in the rainbow. Their positive energy and unabashed creative expression also empower people to openly embrace their authentic and true selves. They also have a YouTube channel (TasselFairy) where they share their colorful makeup and fashion looks, and also discuss such topics as mental health, disability, and confidence.
They also design cheerful and multicolored art that is available for purchase on their website: a rainbow in your cloud!
Aurélia Durand is a Paris-based illustrator, painter, and animator who celebrates her Afro-descendants through her proud use of bright and eye-catching colors in her illustrative works.
Her works exude such joyful energy through her experimental use of bold, neon-like colors, geometric shapes, and precise line work. Each of her posts whether it be a short animation with playful splashes of bright color or a vibrantly detailed illustration is a visual treat for the eyes of viewers.
You can check out more of her amazing work at: aureliastudio.com, or pick up a copy of writer Tiffany Jewell’s book This Book is Anti-Racist, which she recently illustrated.
Hilena Abebe is an Ethiopian self-taught documentary photographer based in Addis Ababa whose work explores ideas of inequality, identity, and history.
Her work has been featured in such notable publications as National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. I find her photographs so illuminating and able to convey such meaning through the composition of her subjects. I’m especially taken by her photo of 15-year-old Zariya, as shown above. This single picture speaks volumes about how geographic and social circumstances can dictate one’s identity and choices for their future.
She’s also currently working on her ongoing visual project titled “Ethiopia in the USA” which documents Ethiopian immigrants and their connection to their homeland while adjusting to living in America. You can check out more of her impressive work at her personal website: hilinaabebe.com
Antuan Byers is a Manhattan-based dancer, model, entrepreneur, and activist for the arts. He’s worked with notable brands such as Nike, Urban Outfitters, Acura, and Jaguar.
Scrolling through his Instagram feed, I’m struck by how fluid and graceful his movements are, yet there’s also an inherent strength and power to them. His movements and contortion of his body almost seem to mimic a sort of moving art.
Byers is also the founder and CEO of Black Dance Change Makers, which serves to empower and uplift Black dancers everywhere while collaborating with organizations such as Feeding America and the American Red Cross to create positive change at a global community level.
Morgan Harper Nichols
Morgan Harper Nichols is a poet, writer, designer, and artist who has amassed nearly 2 million Instagram followers.
Her art and words are such a comforting presence in the hustle and bustle of life. Each of her posts has such a positive air about them and reminds us all that we are not alone. I wholly admire the passion and heart she has behind the work she does, which shines through in her reassuring words and grounding reminders for her community. You can purchase her art at garden24.co and also pre-order her new book titled Peace is a Practice which is releasing on February 15, 2022.
Throughout American history, Black individuals have always made invaluable and significant artistic contributions to the development of artistic expression in American culture. However, as a result of rampant systemic racism and discrimination, their contributions often go unacknowledged and unrecognized.
Although the medium and concept of art doesn’t discriminate, the so-called keepers and higher echelons of the art world do, causing much work created by Black creatives to be overlooked and pushed to the side. To rectify this long period of unrecognition, inclusivity and representation of the many diverse voices that encompass these creative spaces should be made a higher priority. So as Black History Month begins, let’s amplify the voices and works of Black creatives, and continue doing so, long after this month ends.
So go participate in this change by checking out and supporting these talented individuals, along with other Black creatives!