Cultural architects: The eternal influence of African Americans artists

From everything we see, watch and hear, the impact of African American culture has an imprint on it all.

The impact of this influence has been gravely under-appreciated and deserves its flowers.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has picked this year’s Black History Month theme to be “African Americans and the Arts,” to highlight the expansive history and lifestyle of African American artists.

In my opinion, this is a perfect theme. African American influence on the arts has been a staple in American culture and has greatly contributed to today’s society.

I believe that without this rich culture, society as we know it wouldn’t be where it is today.

The first thing that my mind gravitates to when I hear African American influence on the arts is one man, Michael Jackson.

Regarded as one of the most successful artists in the world, “The King of Pop,” was truly a spectacle of his time.

Jackson was not only influential to African American art, but he also changed the landscape of both pop culture and music as a whole. Jackson’s presence is still felt within the music scene.

I remember being a kid and my father introducing me to his album, “Thriller.” It completely changed my viewpoint on music and my own personal taste. Jackson quickly became my favorite artist of all time.

I cannot begin to imagine the number of people and artists Jackson influenced with his music.

From timeless classics to riveting performances, no matter where you are from, the everlasting impact Jackson had on the world cannot be denied.

Just like Jackson, Jean-Michel Basquiat was another artist who played a pivotal role in my creative life, ultimately changing the way the art world interprets art itself.

Basquiat single-handedly changed the art scene during the 1980s and was a dominant figure in the Neo-expressionism movement.

Historical African American figures, including jazz players and sports icons, mainly inspired his art.

Known as a leper of his craft, Basquiat was never one to shy away from tackling the social issues of police brutality and blatant racism that he had witnessed or experienced himself.

Last year, I had the opportunity to experience his exhibit in Los Angeles. I was fully immersed in his work, utterly speechless by the fact that I was surrounded by my idol’s artwork.

Although I only mentioned two great African American artists, countless amounts of Black artists in the community have changed the landscape in which we see the world.

For every song, mural or artistic performance, a hint of African American culture and art will always be present.

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