Spotlighting Black Artists Through a Mix of Mediums
A Compilation of Creativity

Art by Courtney Jeffs.

I think the media/mediums we choose to interact with (and spend money on) play a vital role in shaping—and expanding—our perceptions. In honor of Black History Month here are some of my personal favorite projects that place Black voices and faces at the forefront. 



Love Jones, Theodore Witcher, New Line Cinema, 1997.  

Brown Sugar, Rick Famuyiwa, Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios, 2002. 

Although we have seen the Rom-Com done time and time again, these two stand at the top of my list. I adore (and am so nostalgic for) the fashion and music in these films. Leather jackets are a staple of the 90s-early 2000s style, and these movies have their characters stuntin’ on us with their steeze. The hip-hop references and plot lines in Brown Sugar make for a sweet dedication to the genre/culture. As for Love Jones, the chemistry between Larenz Tate’s character Darius, and Nia Long’s Nina is such a good, tease-type flirtation. Love the effortlessness of these films.   

Art House/Independent 

If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins, Annapurna Pictures, 2018. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Joe Talbot, A24, 2019. 

These films are high on my recommendation list because they are simply stunning to watch. If Beale Street Could Talk has one of my favorite opening sequences of all time—thanks to the beautiful score (which I think, in itself, is a character in this film) by Nicholas Britell, and cinematography by James Laxton. Jenkins timelessly adapts James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name. His adaptation is a representation of what continuing legacy looks like. 

The actors in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors, give performances that perfectly balance silence/stillness with fun/liveliness. Cinematographer, Adam Newport-Berra, captures the city and characters in such a charismatic way. A wonderful film to watch if you have a special place in your heart for California.   

Horror/Sci-Fi (Western, Adventure, Comedy, Drama) 

Nope, Jordan Peele, Universal Pictures, 2022.  

Many will probably still say that Get Out is Peele’s best or their favorite film, but after I saw Nope it instantly became one of my all-time favorite movies. As you can see listed above I have a variety of genres to categorize this film, and that is because Peele successfully creates a movie that does it all. His ability to break the genre barriers and boundaries (especially that of a Black creative in the industry) is so commendable. I know genre-blending is not groundbreaking, but this IMAX film about Black cowboys, commenting on spectatorship within the Hollywood system through the use of horror and comedy… I mean, wow. Peele jam-packed this film with so much substance and I loved every minute of it. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was how it included the (uncommonly known) story of the first motion picture—which was of a Black man riding a horse. Nope takes a historical Black legacy and infuses it into a contemporary storyline that also showcases the importance of generational legacy. Despite some of the other messages in the film, I truly think Peele offers a movie about Black joy, drive, passion, excellence, and adventure. 




Heart Love Messages of the Soul, Sherehe Yamaisha Roze, Heart Love Publications, 2002. 

About five years ago I took one of my first Black studies classes with Miss Starla Lewis (a professor at a community college in San Diego). She is a true gem and gifted me and my classmates with a book written by her daughter. Heart Love Messages of the Soul is a collection of poems and some accompanying images. I typically do not gravitate toward poetry, but this book holds such a special spot in my heart and memory. I am excited to have Roze on this list and to support and shout out a small author/artist—an act I think is so important to building up communities/the arts. 

Non-Fiction/Music Criticism 

Gunshots in My Cook-up: Bits and Bites of a Hip Hop Caribbean Life, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, Simon & Schuster, 2002. 

Selwyn Seyfu Hinds hooked me right away with his introduction, “I write this for you, lover of hip-hop. Because I once was, still am, and always shall be just like you. I, too, marvel at the growth of this music, this expression of style and being, from local phenomenon in the battered South Bronx streets of 1970s New York City to global economic and cultural force today” (1). Being the former editor-in-chief of The Source, Hinds has story after story after story to tell. Each page enthralled me with his personal anecdotes filled with iconic hip-hop names and moments. His memoir makes you feel like you’re right there beside him, yet also understanding that you exist years later, living your own hip-hop history.  

Music is History, Questlove, Abrams Image, 2021

This book is perfect for history buffs who are also huge music-heads. Questlove provides a thoughtful and intricate exploration of historical/sonic moments from 1971 until now. Questlove’s writing is so accessible, personal, funny at times, and passionate. He paints such vivid pictures of his experiences and his engagement with music throughout time. If you want any new music recommendations this is the book for you—he compiles a playlist for every year! If you want to time-travel back in time—either historically or musically—this is the book for you. Such a fun, entertaining, and educating read!

Photography (in book form)

The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, Antwaun Sargent, Aperture, 2019.

Sargent’s compilation of photographers brings together a range of artistry into one entity. There are photographs of actors, rappers, models, and pop culture figures from across different regions. It is the perfect coffee-table book (if you’re into that). Each page flip captivates your eye and excites you for the next image. Highly recommend this book if you’re interested in fashion, Black aesthetics, and widening your scope of artists/photographers. 

Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities, Dawoud Bey, Aperture, 2019. 

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of viewing these images on a larger scale in a museum (I unfortunately forget which museum this was). Nevertheless, seeing Bey’s work for the first time was an emotional experience. Part of this collection includes portraits of students, as well as a personal quote from them. Reading their words beside Bey’s work moved me on many levels, and reminded me of the preciousness of a classroom. In addition to his photography, Bey writes about his journey and process of becoming the artist he is today. I found his words extremely inspirational and comforting (we don’t need to have everything all figured out, especially when it comes to artistic expression; the process is key to the product). This book is a wonderful example of showing how words and images communicate together to a larger meaning and understanding. 

Ice Cold. a Hip Hop Jewelry History, Vikki Tobak, Taschen, 2022. 

Much of the art on this list relies on the movement throughout time, and this book is a continuation of this theme. Each era—1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s—is defined by its personalized take on fashion, trends, and style. Ice Cold archives iconic moments through the use of images and words written by community members. The photobook, acting like a hip-hop-ified yearbook, displays images in a 10 x 13-inch frame—allowing the pictures to take up the space they deserve. I love how alive and freeing the book/photographs feel!  


A Seat at the Table, Solange, Saint Records/Columbia Records, 2016. 

This album came to my mind right away when thinking of a music piece that encapsulates the messages the other mediums in this compilation embody. The storytelling aspect of this album—interludes spoken by Master P, and Solange’s parents—is a beautiful and personal part of this project, which I think highlights the sentiment of collectivity and collaboration. 

A sidebar, but aside from her music, Solange is a creative who stands as a significant figure in our contemporary time regarding archival and preservation work. She is the founder of SAINT HERON, which is characterized as: “a multidisciplinary institution reverencing the spiritual act of creation, through its preservation and collection of vital works in art and design.” Solange’s ethos intrigues and inspires me, and I would wish for more folks to know the work she is doing not only with her music but with her entire vision as a creative. Another sidebar from her music, but I was completely in awe of an interview article I read a few months back; highly recommend the read if you’re interested in the specificity of spaces.

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