Cultured Black Baroque

A stylized self-portrait. My constant state of change and transition.

  A stylized self-portrait. My constant state of change and transition.

This was a spur of the moment deal where I decided to participate in Illustration Friday, and thought of it being the chance to kill two birds with one stone. I rarely do self-portraits, especially ones where I have a huge grin on my face (I wear braces you see), yet I feel I just might have to one eventually. They are after all, apart of my endless series of progression.

I don’t want to analyze the picture too much but the inspiration came from reading just a snippet of a novel called Save the Pearls. The self-published book has been out for nearly a year and I was curious about the premise of it being set in a dystopian future where the sun has cooked the earth, making only dark-skinned people more apt at surviving than white people. In this instance, black people are the ruling cast. The problem with this idea (aside from the misconceptions about our darker skin not suseptible to sunburn), is that black people are referred to as Coals while white people are called Pearls. Infer what you will, read up the author, I can’t talk further about it. My red flags are on fire.

So in my own form of retaliation I drew this piece in reference to the forms that pearls can take. White pearls, pristine and perfectly spherical, are actually hard to find and usually have to be cultured at special farms. They can come in different colors and can also be very oddly-shaped. The largest pearl in the world, Lao Tzu is as baroque as it gets. So don’t tell me that only perfect white pearls have value. They do, but variety is real and it holds more value than any single gem.



Save the Pearls website…sigh:

And an interesting find:


It’s Not Really History


For the simple fact that it only happened half a century ago. In that time we witnessed changes for African-Americans like myself. nothing was overnight, but there was a catalyst. It was the most undesirable and despicable trigger we could’ve ever imagined for the Civil Rights Movement-the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy from Chicago. Emmett Till.


I must’ve read the story a dozen times, assessing the situation and times. The conflicting evidence of whether or not Till whistled at a white woman. The subsequent murder and trial. The verdict. The outrage. I must make note of why I decided to illustrate this event, and why I’m bringing it up. Recently, rapper Lil’ Wayne came out with a song called ‘Karate Chop’ that had an obscene lyric in reference to Till, and Till’s family was nonetheless disgusted. They tried to reach the rapper with a two-page letter but even now (nearly three weeks after the song was leaked), he hasn’t responded. The record company pulled the song and apologized as is to be expected. But not him. Why?


I suppose he doesn’t have to apologize but the very least he could do is explain his reasoning behind the lyric. Artists have a responsibility. We are able to reach out and potentially influence others through various mediums and we can see a reflection of what we do in our culture. What does it say about our culture and in particular black culture when we bastardize our own history? In the wake of ‘Black History Month’ we so swiftly gloss over the past of our ancestors and come the 28th or 29th it’s back to being a memory. This is just Black History, it’s American History. The gesture of reducing our or any other group of people’s past to a month is met with contempt on my end.


As for creating these illustrations, it was something I hesitated to do. What only took fifteen hours altogether to finish spanned roughly two weeks. In that time I struggled with deciding whether or not I should show such graphic images and looking at the pictures of his body was unbearable. I ultimately decided to do so for two reasons.

For one, nothing that you see is an exaggeration. Every state of this boy’s death was his reality. Violence isn’t bashful or apologetic, and it can never be fully censored. The men who took Till’s life didn’t have the capacity to harbor these emotions. I wanted to bring awareness to the horrors that black people faced living in the Deep South in the post-Civil Rights era. So few people know his story.


The second reason is because of Till’s mother, Mamie. In the aftermath of her son’s death she allow the world to see the brutality of racism rampant. She saw his disfigured face up close, and had to live with that sight embedded into her memory. She became a leading force behind the Civil Rights Movement which was sparked by her son’s murder. If she could take all of that and still have any drop of motivation left in her to keep going, then why not me? Why not a poet or a singer, history teacher or professor? Anybody can if she can.


I don’t intend to stir the pot. I don’t intend to depress. I surely am not doing this to offend or upset the family. I am hopeful that people will learn the story and will be informed. It’s not really history because hatred and violence go on and on everywhere, and it’s not always enough to turn off the news or avoid the paper to ignore it. Sometimes all it takes is a song or an image.


“The Untold Story of EMMETT LUIS TILL (Documentary 2005) by Keith Beauchamp.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Williams, Brennan. “Emmett Till’s Family Responds To Lil Wayne Lyric In New Open Letter.” The Huffington Post., 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.


Because I Can

Completed Vanderpoel Study

Studying a master of the human form, I imitate one of Vanderpoel’s drawings while in my own mind, finishing what he started. The original drawing is on the link below.

People will tell you that you can’t do things all the time, and I’ve heard this all of my life. Eventually one of two things will happen- you believe them to be true or you prove them wrong. As someone who aspires for great things and to do good I feel that my drawings are a reflection of that-trying to be perfect but ultimately falling short of the goal. Even so, each step brings change. Every mistake recognized is one less flaw.

For as long as I can I’d like to share my drawings and progression into that tried and true, respected area of art called realism and make it known that yes, I can do this. What about you? What have people told you you couldn’t do?