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3 Contemporary Black Artists Favored By Activists

Currently, there are 3 contemporary Black artists, Donald “C-Note” Hooker, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, and Joedee Wigby, also known as the Revolutionary prison artist Joedee, whose artworks are favored by activists.

Donald “C-Note” Hooker

The most celebrated work of art is C-Note’s Incarceration Nation. It has become America’s premier artwork on mass incarceration.

In July of 2017, inspired by African American prison artist Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s 2016 artwork, From The Plantation To The Penitentiary, which became the official poster for the Millions For Prisoners Human Rights March, African American prison artist C-Note knew he must use his talents in the promotion of the March.

From The Plantation To The Penitentiary
From The Plantation To The Penitentiary

In July of 2017, C-Note created the graphite on paper, Incarceration Nation. It features prison bars going through the 48 contiguous states of the United States, and features red pins and pinholes drawn into the artwork.

The red pins represent the location of the state sanctioned deaths of: Travon Martin in Florida; Michael Brown in Missouri; Sandra Bland in Texas; Philando Castile in Minnesota; Freddie Gray in Maryland; Ezell Ford, Wakiesha Wilson, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) & Oscars Grant in California; and Charleen Lyles in Washington State.

Incarceration Nation is the first work of art to be featured in the 2021, hour-long video, 1-Artist; 1-Subject; 21-Works.

Incarceration Nation has been featured in several Hip Hop music videos, such as Minister King X Pyeface – Exception (Official Video) ft. Scarface, and Peace of Pye #1, With bonus unreleased soundtrack from the play, “I Stand 2 Vote“.

Incarceration Nation has been published in the Wikipedia article on Prison art.

Prison art – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_art

Incarceration Nation has become the lede image to multiple online and print publications:

Lethal Lockdown: a Biblical Critique of the Coronavirus Fear Pandemic | Vaccines and Christianity

https://www.vaccinesandchristianity.org/2020/04/05/lethal-lockdown-a-biblical-critique-of-the-coronavirus-fear-pandemic/

Interweaving #4 – Lisa Guenther and Rivka Rocchio on Mass Incarceration | Weave News

https://www.weavenews.org/podcasts/interweaving/2019/05/10/2019-5-9-interweaving-4-lisa-guenther-and-rivka-rocchio-on-mass-incarceration

In 2020, Incarceration Nation was featured by fashion designer Makenzie Stiles in her fashion line Mercy.

In 2021, Incarceration Nation made history in the Prison Art world, by becoming the first artwork to be exhibited on a billboard.

The exhibition led to the activist rally, A Better San Jose Peaceful Rally. Here are Incarceration Nation souvenirs from that rally.

While Polaroid photographs are now becoming all-the-rage, these Polaroid photographs of Incarceration Nation are neoclassical. They are called ICONS: Polaroid-Haring-C-Note. It is because the Incarceration Nation Exhibition was photographed using a Polaroid x Keith Haring camera and film.

The icon on the left was published in the Artists’ Billboards section of the Billboard article on Wikipedia.

Billboard – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billboard

In 2022, composer, pianist/vocalist, interdisciplinary artivist Samora Pinderhughes is holding up an Incarceration Nation flier at a concert event. In 2023, Pinderhughes was awarded a rare $1 million grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund The Healing Project.

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s literary and visual voice is everywhere in activist circles. It is so vast, a single article can not do it justice. One of his most disseminated works and used in activist circles, is his 2005, ink on paper, Black August.

It truly encapsulates the words of Mumia Abu Jamal, “Black August (at least in the West) begins in Haiti,” The Haitian reference is in regards to the Haitian Revolution, which began in August of 1791.

Notable figures in Black August, include Queen Mother Moore (born Audley Moore; 1898-1997); Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross; 1822-1913); Jonathan and George Jackson, their deaths in 1970 and 71′ respectively, began the journey of Black August becoming a month-long in .

Jalil Abdul Muntaqim (born Anthony Jalil Bottom; 1951 – ), released from prison in 2020, after serving 49 years; Fred Hampton (1948-1969); Russell “Maroon” Shoatz (1943-2021), Dr. Mutla Shakur (born Jeral Wayne Williams; 1950 – ); and others. Included is the following text:

A month (August) of paying tribute to the true heroes, martyrs and history of Our Ongoing struggle for Liberation

Black August has become the lede image, or an image published in multiple online publications:

The birth, meaning and practice of Black August | San Francisco Bay View

https://sfbayview.com/2021/07/the-birth-meaning-and-practice-of-black-august/

Black August | Change-Links

https://change-links.org/black-august-2/

“Mood of Militancy” Movies Star at Black August Film Festival in Pasadena | CovertAction Magazine

https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/08/29/mood-of-militancy-movies-star-at-black-august-film-festival-in-pasedena/

Reflecting on the Roots of Black August & George Jackson | Critical Resistance

https://criticalresistance.org/updates/roots-of-black-august/

Get Involved | Philly ABC

https://phillyabc.org/get-involved/

Black August is the cover art to Gloria Verdieu’s 2019 book Black August: 1619-2019.

Black August: 1619-2019: Verdieu, Gloria, | Amazon Books

https://www.amazon.com/Black-August-1619-2019-Gloria-Verdieu/dp/167242688X

In 2022, Black August became the official art used by the City of East Palo Alto for their Black August event.

EPA Community Healing Event | City of East Palo Alto

https://www.cityofepa.org/community-resources/page/epa-community-healing-event

Joedee Wigby aka the Revolutionary Prison Artist Joedee

While the Revolutionary prison artist Joedee does not have nearly the equivalent activist use of his artwork as the other two black artists, nevertheless he is worth noting.

His 2019, color pencil and pen on paper, THE PEACEMAKERS, features:

Top left: William E. Brown, aka MinsterKingXPyeface, the George Jackson of Rap (1974 – )

Center: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (1959 – )

Top right: Donald “C-Note” Hooker (1965 – )

Lower left: George Lester Jackson (1941 – 1971)

Lower right: Stanley “Tookie” Williams (1953 – 2005)

These men were known for trying to discover, implement, and execute the concept of peace, on both sides of the prison wall, along racial, ethnic, and gang lines.

Joedee and his Black art has been featured in quite a few articles.

Prisoner Press Fundraiser Gets Support from Revolutionary Prisoner Artist | Artist Social Network

https://artistsocialnetwork.wordpress.com/2019/11/20/prisoner-press-fundraiser-gets-support-from-revolutionary-prisoner-artist/

Artivists in Action and Solidarity: Rattle the KAGE Dec. 7, 4-7pm | San Francisco Bay View

https://sfbayview.com/2019/12/artivists-in-action-and-solidarity-rattle-the-kage-dec-7-4-7pm/

The Revolutionary Art of Prisoner-Artist, Joedee | DeviantArt

https://www.deviantart.com/darealprisonart/journal/The-Revolutionary-Art-of-Prisoner-Artist-Joedee-813888365

Portrait of Rap’s George Jackson | Artlectron IN2

https://artlectron.in-two.com/darealprisonart/post/72225032

25 of Prison Art’s Most Beautiful Women | C-Note

https://www.c-note.org/25-of-prison-arts-most-beautiful-women/

One of his most important contemporary Black artworks was a series of works completed in 2019, for the 40th anniversary of Black August. Black August 40th Anniversary by Joedee is a series of works the South Central Los Angeles-Compton-raised prisoner-artist created in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Black August. The artist specifically requested his Series be released on August 21st in memory of George Jackson.

Black August 40th Anniversary by Joedee Wall Art | Darealprisonart Official Website

https://prints.darealprisonart.com/collections/black+august+40th+anniversary+by+joedee

During the Flood 

It would be highly amiss to omit C-Note’s 2017, ink on paper, During the Flood. Like Incarceration Nation, During the Flood is one of C-Note’s most disseminated works of art. Created in 2017, right after the televised destruction caused by Category 5 Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf Coast of Texas, During the Flood was to serve as a Public Service Announcement to create a state and local evacuation plan for prisoners.

Khalil A. Cumberbatch, the CUNY graduate, nationally recognized criminal justice advocate, and former prisoner, published During the Flood on Instagram during Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, noting, 1-million Floridans were under mandatory evacuation, except prisoners;

Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, published During the Flood on their Facebook Page; along with, why the artist in his own words, created the work;

https://www.facebook.com/FightToxicPrisons/posts/2471554193075165

Massachusetts Against Solitary Confinement (MASC), published During the Flood on Facebook to bring public awareness to evacuate the prisons in Georgia that were in the path of Category 5 Hurricane Dorian;

https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2368601113266852&id=1143030605823915&fs=0&focus_composer=0

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief published “During the Flood” in their zine, “Prisoners In Disaster: Legacy of abuse, exploitation, and endangerment of prisoners and disaster.”

https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Prisoners-in-Disaster_-The-legacy-of-abuse-exploitation-and-endangerment-of-prisoners-in-disaster.pdf

We refuse to let the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, or Hurricane Laura repeat themselves. Please help us demand evacuation for people incarcerated in evacuation zones during #HurricaneIda !

Art by our friend C-Note, at CSP LA, Lancaster

Conclusion

Oftentimes in the visual art world, its infrastructure tells the collecting public who are the new and emerging artists, with the catch-all phrase, “This is an important artist,” but how can an artist be important when their works are not living and breathing beyond their studio? Hopefully, a new paradigm shift occurs with the gatekeepers in the art world, in that the democratic process of relevance and importance have a say; especially in determining Black art, and important Black artists.

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