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Creating Art is Not Enough

CreatingArtIsNotEnoughKendra G.
00:00 / 09:40

op-ed by Kendra 


We all exist within it- feeding and building off of the love and care entrenched in Black voices, spirituality, and familial notions. It’s the assumed lifeblood of the art practices founded and formed by New York Creatives, all who claim to be culture pushers, creative revolutionaries, and proprietors of community care. This community that we so dearly uphold is one that often fails to exist outside of capitalism, reverting “boundary breakers” to “aspiring capitalists”, and evenly de-centering the folks within our communities who need the most exalt, care, and mutual aid. NYC Black art culture consistently displaces trans folks, darker folks, disabled folks, queer folks, poor folks, femme folks and fat folks in many aspects of the work we produce. What happens to the person who intersects some or all of these social categories? What is happening to the artist who wants to create culture, but cannot seem to do so without overcharging supporters who barely have the resources themselves? Though this cycle is not new to New York, let’s explore the history and future of a hopeful and truly comprehensive communal path. 

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Artistry has long been entrenched within Black lives and voices, weaved into our ancestry, and the roots of our future. New York’s breath of Black artistic consciousness traces back from the slaves that made up 20% of the city’s population, to the cultural revival that underprivileged Black folks ushered in with the Harlem Renaissance. This traced line weaves its way through the Gay Liberation Movement to Stonewall, as days of Studio54 met the AIDs epidemic, a disease that Black folks are still statistically most affected by. This thread of Black artistry has observed Faith Ringgold and Michele Wallace’s efforts to prioritize Black femme artist’s rights in the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and Black Arts Movement, while credit and prestige still went to Black men. This thread spun around Angela Davis’s rise to honorable fame, whilst tightening around Assata’s demise. This thread can be traced from the explosion of rap music in the 80s, well into  our current day, neatly paired with a white dominated music industry that consumes and discards of Black artists, offering them few other options in the aim for fame. And we’ve seen this thread of artistry brighten in the dimness of the pandemic, urging us all to create and shine, despite having spent a week(s) marching and screaming in streets that now felt like they belonged to no one, hoping that the sound of white gentrifiers chanting “Hands Up Don't Shoot” would release itself from our minds. When written this way, the lineage of Black artistry appears as a double edged sword– for as we continue to shine, the constraints of white ideologies have an unmistakable dim. Through white education, we have learned and assimilated to ideals of conformity, racism, patriarchy, colorism, homophobia, xenophobia….and clearly, so much more. From the struggling father in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, to the layers of anti-Blackness that surround Kanye, to Obama-esque respectability politics, Black folks consistently learn that to make it in this world, you have to align with what’s white. Paired with the hopes to ascend to the 1%, I wonder how many of us have acknowledged that to rise to the top, you’ll always enforce people remaining at the bottom. So this is to me, to you, and to all of us– are you building the community that you claim to be?

To synthesize this scene, here’s a bit of what I’ve seen in 2022:

  • There’s a lack of diversity among the culture creators and their events

    • How can this be for everyone when your whole team looks the same? How can we accurately claim to represent Black folks if we only highlight folks who are lighter, able bodied, slimmer, cisgendered…

      • We critique larger industries for their lack of inclusion, and then adopt the same how are we following our own path if the structure mirrors theirs?

    • How can you have a community event that claims inclusivity, but is planned by and mainly highlighting cis Black men? 

      • Especially when the event is meant to include and honor Black femmes..can we get real?

      • You can always feel when a space wasn’t meant to include you, and it’s a stark contrast to what one hopes they would experience.


  • We’re forgetting ancestral practices of community care. It’s so easy to make those extra steps to make folks feel like they were truly considered and a part of your community. Here are some examples:

    • Photoshoots literally take forever-providing water, food, and basic comfort necessities can be so easy.

      • And encouraging the folks participating in your projects to have a voice can drastically change the experience for everyone.

    • Having an event means providing these same necessities-and when there’s a hitch in the plans…at least communicate. I’ve stood in a room where everything was falling apart, and the organizers stood in the back, only addressing things on social media days later. 


  • In a world where intersectionality determines your privileges and access to monetary resources-why would we charge everyone the same?

    • Pay what you can systems for Black Trans People especially should be the requirement.

    • Truly, as a community member, “pay what you can" seems necessary for Black folks of all socioeconomic backgrounds to be allowed into the space. If only the people who can afford it are allowed in your space, how safe is it exactly? 

  • We’ve all seen that clout culture is at its peak, to be “up” means you’re in-and many people are making efforts to restructure a private Black elite. To me, a seat at the table means nothing if you aren’t willing to pull out a chair for those around you.

2022 included many learning lessons for me, and I assume for us all. I began looking around and noting the ways that I participated in systems of exclusion, and how my privilege as a lighter, slimmer, middle-class person was enhancing my life. I began wondering if the wonderful art world was truly what we painted it to be, and seeking to explore  not how we could  reform it, but completely restructure it. In the face of capitalism and white pedagogy it seems nearly impossible to make our way, especially when we’re all trying to survive, hoping to thrive, and chasing the dream that many have laid before us. As we embark on these journeys towards our desired careers, and our vision of community, it’s our responsibility to cater to everybody who embodies the Black identity. It’s also our responsibility to confront the colorists, the homophobes, the capitalists, the sexists, and the fatphobes who walk amongst us, who create events that we can see weren’t meant for everyone to enjoy, who publish work that claims representation, but fails everytime. It’s our responsibility to address that within ourselves. It’s not enough to just include somebody in a room, or diversify who is featured in a video or painting. Though these white ideologies weren’t created by us, we’ve ingested them in our schooling, in our media, and in our everyday lives. It is time for a true return to self. Claiming that we want to shift the culture also means seeking knowledge, and taking a sharp look at how we can reconstruct ourselves, our ideals, our community events, and our visions for the world. There is so much beauty, joy, and power in the creativity of Black folks in New York, calling immigrants and gentrifiers and natives alike to feed into the hopeful spirit that keeps the city alive. Yet this future can only come to fruition when we all journey towards freeing ourselves, and truly crafting community.


Until then- creating art is not enough.

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