What Being a Black Creative Means to Me
February 16, 2021
I’ve always loved creating. Whether it was writing short stories during math class or drawing on my bedroom wall (under my mattress when I got caught writing on my wall), I was always finding ways to express myself creatively. This month, and always, I celebrate the Black voices that have inspired and shaped me into the creative I am today.
If it weren’t for—
The eloquent words of Maya Angelou in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,
The rawness of Aaron Coleman in Threat Come Close,
The brilliance of Toni Morrison’s novel, Sula
The melodic tune of Prince singing “When Doves Cry,”
The grace and beauty of Brandy in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,
The bold expression of Dapper Dan through each design he creates,
The rhythmic rapping of Naughty by Nature in “Hip Hop Hooray,”
And so many more (trust me, I could go on for days), I would not have been able to dig deeper to find the rhythm of my voice to share my words. When it comes to being a black creative, I couldn’t tell you where one starts and one ends; it has melded into one.
Creating has always come naturally to me, but without the vibrant culture and rich history that I was born into and the environment that has shaped me, my creativity would have no direction. In short, being a Black creative has given me purpose.
This purpose means everything to me. I take seriously the privilege I have in detailing the Black experience through my expression of words. It is a constant yearning of needing our story to be told, to be heard, to be understood. Sometimes that desire weighs heavy, but I remember the many Black creatives before me who have given of themselves for the sake of our culture. And each time I create, this responsibility becomes easier to bear and share with others.
At its core, Black creativity is storytelling. There’s joy, there’s laughter, there’s heartache, there’s resilience. Being a black creative to me means having the ability to beautifully preserve our culture. Being a Black creative means paving the way for others to have the ability to speak in spaces that weren’t always designed to include voices like us.
Being a Black creative means being present and demanding to be seen, always.
So how can the creative industry better support Black creatives?
We all love uncomfortable conversations right? Yeah, no. But having these tough and awkward conversations is so important when it comes to creating an environment that is open and welcoming for all employees to feel heard and seen. Having space for Black creatives to voice their concerns allows your organization to see where any disconnects are and what you can do as an organization to repair this disconnect.
It might be easier to constantly lean on the Black creatives who are in your organization to learn how to be better, but in doing this, you miss out on the opportunity to truly learn about the issues facing black creatives for yourself. True and thoughtful learning must start with you and the more you research and educate yourself on the issues that are at hand, the more solutions you will find for the issues will resonate with you.
Everyone can talk the talk, but fewer can walk that walk. After listening and learning, it’s important to make tangible changes that reflect what has been heard and learned. Whether it’s actively finding ways to diversify your organization or simply celebrating minority voices within your organization more, the change depends on you.
None of the steps are always easy, but they are necessary if we really desire change. Plus, I’ve found that the harder you work for something, the more you began to value it. The future of diversity, equity, and inclusion starts today and we all have the chance to take part in it.