Picture Perfect

A daughter of the Black Arts Movement's journey into Hot Ghetto Mess.

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jeff
My dad, artist Jeff Donaldson and me.

Dad was a revolutionary.

A prolific artist and intellectual, a driving force in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, founder of the artists' collective AfriCobra (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) and retired dean of the Howard University College of Fine Arts, Jeff R. Donaldson created works that are world-renowned, brilliant and timeless.

But enough of that; stats, facts and figures are best left for Google. Ultimately, what I remember most about my father, who died in 2003, can't be found in an Internet search—things like how he spoke French; didn't wear neckties; smoked cigarettes; loved basketball, the blues and sweet potato pie; and hated talking on the phone. He taught me early on that C's were unacceptable, black was beautiful and that it wasn't about who won or lost as long as the game was good. He made sure that the appreciation of education, art and excellence was paramount in my life. And for that I am eternally grateful.

My father believed black people had a responsibility to project an image to the world of pride, dignity, excellence, beauty and strength. As such, his paintings symbolized power, rebellion and the beauty of the black figure. He wanted to inspire, and he is my inspiration. And though I can't paint a stick figure, what I did inherit from Dad was his free spirit, bushy hair, revolutionary nature, impatience and, ultimately, a passion to seeing black people painted in a better light.

All of which begs the question: How did the daughter of such a dynamic, revolutionary artist become the Queen of Hot Ghetto Mess?

Easy.

Just as my father wanted to show a proud, vibrant, strong black community by painting us not as we were, but as all we could be, Hotghettomess.com was borne of an anger and frustration at seeing my generation and our children abandon all those things my dad and his peers worked tirelessly to attain.

 

Victory in the Valley of Esu, 1971; Jeff R. Donaldson

At first glance, my dad and I couldn't seem more different. And frankly, it wasn't until I became a "controversial figure" (whatever the hell that means) in my own community that I realized just how alike my father and I truly are.

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