After a tumultuous first half of 2015 in which South Carolina has been at the forefront, it is more upsetting that my state's black artists have been hidden. Now, I have seen our black politicians swept to the forefront as they should be. I have seen lawyers, preachers, and activists at center stage as they should be in these perilous times. However, the lack of black poets, writers, and artists in the same line arm and arm with those figures shows a disparaging indictment on South Caroina arts culture.
|Top left: Cadace Wiley; Bottom Left:|
Jennifer Bartell; Top Right: Marcus Amaker
Bottom Right: Tonya Gregg
There are remarkable black poets like Candace Wiley and Jennifer Bartell, even from Charleston like the young and gifted Marcus Amaker. The art of Tonya Gregg remains a South Carolina treasure. The music of Wendell Culbreath speaks revolution and restoration.
Although incredibly transparent articles have been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books by Delana R. A. Dameron and Kwame Dawes, these pioneers left SC to fulfill other projects although the wealth of their work still lingers here. Most of our best artists and writers leave South Carolina for a variety of reasons. I would venture to guess a factor is the arts are marginalized in our state for lack of support and interest. I was in a poetry workshop where Nikky Finney expressed her return to SC was in part based on this reality. Poet Kendra Hamilton has also returned to South Carolina after success in publishing.
I have to accept that I am in a state where Gov. Nikky Haley whom I have never met from my own small, rural home town constantly cuts funding and representation for the arts in our state and even downsized the inaugural poem by our own Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth for dubious reasons. Even with these setbacks to the arts, I have to be optimistic that someone outside of SC's borders will recognize our best contemporary artists especially in times of national turmoil surrounding our state.
I cannot rely on writers not from SC to write about Charleston when my own gift burns within me each day. If CNN or The New Yorker wants nothing to do with our arts movement, we will thrive here.
|Poets Respond to Race on Facebook|
Nonetheless, it is only one vision among many here. Speaking Down Barriers, co-founded by spoken word artist Marlanda "Sapient Soul" Dekine, seeks the same conversation with workshops and open discussion of controversial topics on race.
Working together with this and other projects like The Watering Hole in South Carolina show me that what the cameras and literary journal pages don't see is the work of gifted and talented individuals unifying toward the same objective. We have a responsibility to exhibit, teach, and impart what Gil Scott Heron told us will not be televised.
I am after the growth of SC black arts at its finest and purest. It may not be acknowledged nationwide, but it will be chronicled--starting with me if no one else. Otherwise, we will wait for the world to return to South Carolina in due season.