28 days are not enough Tag

Black is Beautiful 2023 – Nelson Vails


Welcome to Black Is Beautiful 2023! My first pick for the year is Nelson Vails, a pro cyclist from Harlem NYC. Born in 1960, he began riding a bike as a kid and received his first track bike from a member of a motorcycle gang. Eventually he grew into it and not only became a NYC bicycle messenger but would ride in central park before and after work to train. He joined the TOGA racing team named after the famed NYC bike shop and then made the move to live and train in Europe and Japan. Nelson was known as the “cheetah” and became the 1st Black man to win an olympic medal for cycling in 1984. In 2009 he was inducted into the Bicycle Hall of Fame and has many accomplishments, He speaks 5 languages, is an innovator of cycling equipment, been sponsored by companies (Raleigh, Rensho, Rapha), produced a documentary about his life, and has served as an advocate for cycling for youth. Salute to this OG of cycling!
Dig this? Check out this post about Justin Williams, L&M Tourers, or Greg Liggins
Sources: NelsonVails.com, The Cheetah Documentary, Rapha, Wikipedia

Black is Beautiful 2022 – Tougaloo 9


This is for the Tougaloo 9 (Meredith Coleman Anding Jr., James Cleo Bradford, Alfred Lee Cook, Geraldine Edwards, Janice Jackson, Joseph Jackson Jr., Albert Earl Lassiter, Evelyn Pierce, and Ethel Sawyer) a group of undergrad college student activists from the HBCU Tougaloo in Jackson Mississippi. In 1961 they lead the first student lead protest against segregation in MS. Their target was the segregated public libraries in Jackson. They first went to the “Negro” libraries to request books they know would be unavailable, then went to the “White Only” libraries to request them. Although the rules were separate but equal, more than not Black libraries didn’t have the same access to literature or knowledge as the White libraries did even though both people paid taxes funding these public spaces. After this the students decided to protest in their best clothes (Naacp protocol) by going to the White only library. There they asked for books they couldn’t find previously, sat down, and began to read them quietly. The librarians called the police who demanded they leave. When they refused and were arrested. As they sat within the jail system hundreds of local Black students held a vigil in support of them which was violently broken up by MS cops. The next day Black students from Jackson State (HBCU) came to protest as well. The students lost their case against and were fined. But, their actions set off fear in MS and inspired other students. The Naacp filed a lawsuit against the MS library and the judged ruled in favor of desegregating all MS libraries. This also forced the u until that point silent American Library Association to make a statement in favor of desegregation as well, even though they did not have. BLK president until 1976! 

Extra: MS was one of the most racist states in the US. It is the state with the most lynchings of BLK folks according to the Equal Justice Initiative. From citizen lead vigilante groups and cops, to the mayor, news media, and the governor; the threat of violence for challenging Jim Crow was very real and very dangerous. In fact Medgar Evers who trained these students was murdered in the same city 2 years after this action. In addition, all citizens pay taxes which fund the books, staff, and creation of libraries. It is unspeakable the humiliation Blk folks had to and continue to endure.
Sources: Black Past, Wikipedia, Mississippi Free Press, EJI
If you like this check out The Contract Buyers League

Want to see some more activists? Check out:

Marsha P Johnson 2016

Black is Beautiful 2022 – L&M Tourers


I love riding bikes and that lead me to two historic Brooklyn Black lead cycling clubs. The “Red Caps” and the “L&M Tourers”. L&M stands for Lucille and Mildred. Two sisters from BK who loved to ride but did not feel at home in larger white male dominated cycling clubs in NYC. In fact they both attended rides w/ the NY Cycle club in the 70s. But, because they wanted to ride w/ more of their family, friends, and neighbors they made flyers, handed them out in popular cycling areas such as Prospect park and invited Black cyclists to join them on a ride; the first of which was 25 miles. That ride became the L&M Tourers who rode all over the 5 boroughs, LI, upstate, and Jersey! They helped each other out with bikes, gear, training, safety lessons, etc. And they helped each other out if a rider fell or fell behind during a ride. In an interview w/ Velo news Mildred and OG member Mel Corbett describe some of the challenges for Black folks to get into cycling, and some of the lesser and more overt harassment they faced as cyclists who were Black. L&M eventually morphed into what is now known as the Major Taylor Iron Riders and they still organize rides to this day w/ a multicultural crew of folks as anyone can join. 
Sources: Velo News, Major Taylor Club, NY Times

If you dug this check out this one of bmx rider Greg Liggins 2018 and the previous one this year of Brenda Banks

If you like this check out the one I did of Justin Williams in 2020

Black is Beautiful 2022 – Brenda Banks


Brenda Banks was an animator born in Los Angeles California in 1948. I believe she grew up or spent time in Georgia but came back to LA to go to Cal Arts where she studied from 1966 to 1970. She did a student animated film and got her first gig working on the Flip Wilson show. Shortly after that she willed her way into a gig with Palestinian American animation director named Ralph Bakshi (Cool World, Fritz The Cat). At Bakshi films she worked on a adult satirical animation called Coon Skin which came out in 1977. She was described as shy, funny, and extremely talented with the pencil. She animated animals, people, and monsters. In her nearly 30 year career she worked as a layout artist, storyboard revisionist, and an animator. She also trained other artists. She is the one of the first Black women to work in animation if not thee first. In her career she worked on Charlie Brown, The Smurfs, American Pop, Looney Tunes, King of The Hill, The Simpsons, Lord of The Rings, The Jetsons, and Scooby Doo.  I’m sure she faced many barriers not only as a Black person but as a disabled person, and a woman. But, she is a pioneer  who people in the biz remember fondly. She passed away in 2020.
Sources: African Animators Past & Present, Cartoon Brew, Black Women Animate, Women in Animation, IMDB, BLK Animation.net
Check out this one of cartoonist Jackie Ormes
And the previous one this year was The Black Resurgents

Wanna see another Black animator? Peep Jim Simon

Black is Beautiful 2022 – The Black Resurgents


“The Black Resurgents” is a historic dance group from Oakland California. There were many dance groups back then but these gents became the official dancers for the Black Panther Party! They also stood out performing at talent shows, concerts, and events all across Oakland and the Bay. For those that don’t know Boogaloo, Strutting, and Robotting come from the Bay. Oakland, Frisco, and Richmond to be exact. And this group was one of the pioneers of this dance. Rick the Robot, Mr Penguin, LA, and The Crowd Pleaser along with others formed the group in 1971. They danced to funk! They moved their bodies with the music and the moves groups like theirs The Black Messengers, Close Encounters of the Funkiest Kind, Media Cirkus, Demons of The Mind, Granny and The Robotroid, P-T 3000, influenced dancers all across the world and can be seen in the moves of Bay turf dancers, hip hop choreography, and in dance competitions. 
A crew of them got together and created their own alliances and a yearly event called the Boogalaoo Reunion to reclaim that name from white supremacists and to celebrate the culture in dancers both young and old. Their continued performing educates the next generation and gives context to where all these people got their moves from. Shout out to Traci Bartlow who is a part of this lineage, The Malonga Casquelord Center, Destiny Arts, The Hyphy movement, and East Side Arts Alliance for keeping dance alive! 

Sources: The Strutters Room, KQED Arts, Doug Harris, TheBlackResurgents.com

2018: Peep this piece I did of Alvin Ailey

In case you’re following along with me, here’s the last one I did this year: The Warehouse Club in Chicago!

Black is Beautiful – The Warehouse


The Warehouse is one of the foremost prominent and founding clubs of house music. In fact I heard someone say the music is named after this club. Originally located at 206 S Jefferson St in Chicago, the club was founded by Robert Williams and his partner Ron Braswell in 1975. Williams moved from NYC to Chicago and at the urging of friends and boredom decided to start throwing parties. He brought in Frankie Knuckles (godfather of house) who was then a protege of Larry Levan and Nicky Siano. He had renowned engineer Robert Long build the sound system for the 3 floored club and convinced Frankie to come play; telling him it was his club to program the sound. What they did together was create a sound and movement that brought in people from all over the midwest, east coast, and soon the US to dance. It was founded as a queer Black club (men and women) with membership cards. This was to keep the vibe but also to protect the community. Soon, hetero folks, and friends of all ethnicities were invited by members as well. The sound system was incredible and they played underground music that you couldn’t hear on the radio. The club closed after the city threatened to close it for structural issues; think hundreds of people stomping and jumping in parties that started at midnight and ran until the next morning. As someone who didn’t grow up with house, but who now loves it this history is remarkable. The Warehouse is a historical monument right up there w/ clubs like the Loft, Paradise Garage, Studio 54, and the Music Box (also founded by Williams).
Sources: I Remember When House Took Over the World documentary, Red Bull Radio, Ron Trent via Creative mornings
Speaking of places, check out this piece of :
Marcus Books and Soulbeat in Oakland California.

If you’re following along this year, the last piece I did was of Race Car driver Cheryl Linn Glass

Black is Beautiful 2022 – Cheryl Linn Glass


Cheryl Linn Glass was born in Seattle Washington in 1961. She is the oldest of two and developed an interest in racing at a young age. She began racing as a kid in quarter midget cars, then moving up to half midget, then wingless Sprinter cars. Having encouraging parents, she and her sister developed a great love for racing. She graduated high school at 16 and turned pro at 18. The cars she drove at her height used v8 engines and went at least 120 mph. Her goal was to make it to the Indianapolis 500 and then Formula 1. She is the first African American woman to be a professional race car driver. She raced in over 100 races in pacific northwest and nationwide racking up tons of wins and trophies. In addition to being a world class driver she was also a model and an entrepreneur who started a business as a kid as a doll maker and as an adult as a wedding dress maker. In the later part of her career she made it two crashes and dealt with a lot of racism, harassment, sexism, and rape. She died young and the report says she committed suicide though her family disputes this. She is a trailblazer.
Sources: History link, Hemmings, Wikipedia
Did you see the one I did of Willy T Ribbs? See that here

If you haven’t been keeping up with the pieces this year, here is the last one of Jerry Lawson

Black is Beautiful 2022 – Jerry Lawson


    Jerry Lawson was born in 1940 in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens NY. He developed a love for science and technology early on and by his early teens was repairing televisions and building his own Ham radio (long distance, home made). He was encouraged by his parents to pursue his passion and he nurtured that passion into a career in electrical engineering. He moved from NYC to the bay Area and was hired at Fairchild Semiconductor in San Francisco. While living in the Silicon Valley he built a coin operated arcade game in his garage. His employer found out and put him in charge of a project that would revolutionize the gaming industry. Before Lawson video games existed like Pong., but you could only play one game. With a team of folks he invented and developed the “Channel F” which allowed you to play multiple games; storing the software on inter changeable cartridges using microprocessors. The Channel F didn’t do so well financially and was eclipsed by Atari, but his invention changed the game. He was a trailblazer for Black folks in the gaming industry and stem. And he was a pioneer for the industry as a whole. I first heard of him in 2019 through Xbox engineer Cierra McDonald and I hope more young people of all backgrounds get to know his story!

Sources: Microsoft, High Score Documentary, Anderson and Karen Lawson
Check out this piece about Uncle Jamm’s Army from last year.

Black Is Beautiful 2022 – Gladys Bentley


Yo, welcome to this year’s offering of art highlighting BLK folks from the past and present! First up this year: Gladys Bentley!
Gladys was born in 1907 in Philly. She loved music at an early age and began showing an interest for “boys” clothes and girls early. Her parents did not like this and tried to “cure” her. She ran away to Harlem at the age of 16. She began to slowly build a career as a musician slowly and Harlem was a place that was blossoming with BLK folks from all over. She first performed at rent parties and buffet flats which are parties. Buffet flats were private home clubs w/ sex, alcohol, music, and were often welcoming of queer folks. She then graduated to speakeasies (prohibition era). One thing that made her stand out besides her chops on the piano was her deep singing voice and her complete embrace of her queerness and dressing as a “man”. She wore a top hat and tuxedos and people loved her. Her success not only brought her to big venues like the Apollo, The Savoy, or The Cotton Club; but it also gave her the oppoRtunity to tour the US. Later she would experience a huge loss of income during the depression (1930s) and ran up against a crack down against Gay or Lesbian people. Not only by Whites but by conservative BLK folks too. In fact, she later claimed to have left her queer life behind and married a guy. But was a pioneer in blues, gender fluidity, and recording! She began recording blues records on labels like Excelsior, Victor, and Okeh w/ a catalogue that ran from 1928 until 1953. I believe she opened doors for masculine identifying women, Black musicians, and queer folks of all stripes. Much respect to the legacy of Gladys Bentley! 
Sources: PBS, Blackpast.org, Wikipedia
Peep this 2021 piece of the Transgdender Cultural District
2017 Blues Musician Memphis Minnie
Note: If you do not include Black LGBTQ folks in your Black History Month celebrations prominently, please get with the program and show love and respect for our fellow BLK family!
Some process art:

Black History Month Art Challenge 2022


Yo, it’s Black history month and that means it’s time for an art challenge. Normally I call it #BlackIsBeautiful but this year I’m teaming up w/ Fred Noland (Cartoonist/ Dad/ Cyclist) ads we’re using the following #28daysarenotenough (created by Joel Cristian Gill) and #BlackHistoryMonthArt . 
Got a group of students who you want to engage? Please share this with them and let’s get busy sharing Black folks, groups, orgs, locations, etc who should be essential to our understanding of Black excellence. Here’s a graphic w/ some rules. Download it, screenshot it, share, etc.
And during the month, please share other artists of any stripe making art for Black history month w/ us and your social media friends! We definitely will and we want to see it all! Keep an eye out for Avy Jetter, David Heredia, Miguel C Hernandez, and Tiffany Golden!

Q: Wanna see some I’ve painted in the past? Here ya go.