Black people have been dominating in everything from movies to music to fine arts. In the past couple of years, there’s been a rise not only in awareness, but also in praise for black art — and it’s about time.
The biggest and most recent example of this awareness has been the hype surrounding Marvel Studios’ newest feature film, “Black Panther.” There’s a huge wave of excitement over the film, which has an almost exclusively black cast and crew. This isn’t the first time we’re seeing people of color star in superhero films; “Blade” and “Spawn” did it first. That there are people of color behind the camera and that the Marvel Studios brand is being attached to it makes this film even more special.
We saw this last year with the surprise box office hit, and highest-grossing debut for a writer-director based on an original screenplay, “Get Out.” The director, Jordan Peele of the show “Key & Peele,” became the first African American writer-director to earn over $100 million in their first film. The film is also up for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards, an award that went to “Moonlight,” another movie starring and created by people of color, last year.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen shows like Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” and Issa Rae’s “Insecure” become critical and commercial successes. The former of the two earned Glover an Emmy and Golden Globe, while the latter launched Rae into stardom. Shows like “Black-ish,” and its spinoff, “Grown-ish,” both star and were made by people of color and have seen success. These shows are real and relatable to black people because they’re made by people who fully understand what it’s like to be black in the United States.
These shows don’t put us into the stereotypical roles we’re used to seeing, like the drug dealer or gang member. Additionally, these shows are still able to reach and mean something to people who aren’t black because they have characters that are real and complex, and writing that’s fresh and thought-provoking, that makes us want to come back the next week for more.
Black musical artists have been dominating popular culture for a while now, but it became official last year. According to Billboard, R&B and hip-hop music were the most-consumed musical genres in 2017. Artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Beyoncé have been doing numbers like their pop contemporaries for a while, but 2017 saw a lot of rappers reaching new heights. Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed album “DAMN.” was the second highest-selling album of 2017. The album also won the Compton rapper five Grammys. Additionally, “Bad and Boujee” by Migos and Lil Uzi Vert peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 records list.
In the world of fine arts, painters like Kerry James Marshall have taken over. His paintings show what it’s like to be black in the United States. In an October article in The New York Times, he is lauded as becoming one of the great history painters of our time. Additionally, black artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald were chosen to paint the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The paintings shunned the typically stuffy air of presidential portraits and displayed a refreshing exuberance that shook the core of American ideals.
Black art is the new mainstream. We were always ready, but now, the rest of the United States is catching up.