Get ready to open your purse, redistribute that coin, and follow some young, Black artists.
Despite an ongoing pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement has maintained its momentum fighting against police brutality and the social injustices Black and brown people face. Now more than ever people are looking for ways to be an ally and show their support to the Black community. Typically, people sign and share petitions, donate to GoFundMe’s and various organizations, share informational posts on social media, or spend their money with Black-owned businesses. But another way to be supportive of the Black community during this time of social unrest and a pandemic is to support Black artists and creatives.
Women’s Republic spoke with five different Black artists, designers, and creatives about their work during quarantine and how people can best support them.
1. Yetunde Sapp, @ye.sap
Yetunde Sapp, 20, is a painter and designer based in Brooklyn, New York studying Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design. She grew up in Washington, D.C. where she cultivated her skills for fine and visual arts, with a focus on painting.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Sapp returned back to D.C. this summer and attended Black Lives Matter protests where she painted images of protestors and a portrait of Oluwatoyin Salau on boarded-up buildings in D.C. In August, Sapp collaborated with two other local artists to paint a 100-foot mural in South East D.C. “It is the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” Sapp said.
Sapp is now back in Bushwick, BK and is coordinating the creation of an “art house” in the three floor, six bedroom home she currently lives in. She plans for fellow art students and artists to fill up the home and for the space to be a “place for people to collaborate and work in that just fosters good creative energy,” she said. Sapp is also in the process of organizing a fundraiser to collect art supplies, equipment and machinery that art students and artists won’t have access to because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sapp primarily supports herself with painting and sells prints of her work as well as t-shirts and masks on her Redbubble shop, YESAP. She also has a depop account, @yesap, where she sells custom painted shoes, pants and other clothing. Currently Sapp has a GoFundMe open for donations to help with tuition costs, art supplies, education materials and rent.
2. Rashad Awesome Heagle, @eyeoftheheagle
Rashad Heagle, 20, was born and raised in Miami, Florida but is now living in Bushwick, Brooklyn where he is a photography student at Parsons School of Design. Heagle has spent the past few months in the pandemic unemployed and unable to receive unemployment help from the government but has supported himself from his photography and selling prints and t-shirts on his website.
Heagle’s photography is influenced by his upbringing in dance but also by music and the people in the city around him. He enjoys shooting concerts, music and dance photography, street photography, portraits, and fashion. Most of all he shoots people and the majority of the time, Black people. Without black women Heagle would not have found and cultivated his love for photography, he said. “I like to photograph black people, like people who I have a lot in common with. And it’s just a way for me to showcase and highlight the beauty that I see in my people,” he said.
To support Rashad you can view an online portfolio of his work, eyeoftheheagle.tv, buy his prints and t-shirts at his shop, and help him secure his housing situation in New York City for this semester by donating to his GoFundMe.
3. Jazmine Boykins aka BLACKSNEAKERS, @blcksneakers
Jazmine Boykins, 20, who prefers the artistic name, Blacksneakers, is a North Carolina based illustrator and painter who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. Blacksneakers is a student at North Carolina A&T State University, a historically Black college, and university, and she studies visual arts with a minor in arts education. She primarily uses her tablet and digital pen to create her pieces, but also paints, sometimes incorporating embroidery stitching.
Blacksneakers began her art business at the beginning of the pandemic, selling prints, and t-shirts, tote bags, keychains, stickers, and temporary tattoos from her online shop. In just the past few months she has also illustrated graphics for publications such as New York Magazine and The Washington Post, and worked on the Black Lives Matter street mural in Downtown Greensboro, NC.
“A ton of Black creators received recognition during the height of the protests, and although it may seem it has calmed down, showing support for their businesses regardless of BLM gives comfort and positivity to their vocations,” Blacksneakers wrote in an email. “Whether it’s artwork, clothing, or anything that seems useful to the customer, don’t hesitate to help if you have the ability to.”
4. Victor Omokehinde, @voblxze
Victor Omokehinde, 20, a Nigerian-American photographer and student based in Baltimore, Maryland, has been inspired to take his hobby to the “next level” while in quarantine and created a website for his clients and online shop. Omokehinde offers services like photoshoots, portraits, and event photography, but he mainly takes photos for his own enjoyment.
Omokehinde was inspired to take photos after seeing his older brother enjoy the art form. Although he is a full time student, studying biology and computer science at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), he hopes to pursue a career where he can create graphical models of biological systems and structures. “It’s sort of like putting together my love for pictures and I guess, creating graphics and images,” Omokehinde said.
Money is a big reason why Omokehinde can’t put all his time into photography, but he hopes to explore videography in the future and buy the equipment for it. One of the most simple ways to support Black artists is by sharing their work, especially over social media, Omokehinde said. “It just shows that, I mean, like you care, you know? Like you appreciate their work or what they’re doing,” he said.
5. Jake Folayan Cole, @ChoosingHowILiveLife
Jake Cole, 21, an Atlanta, Georgia based clothing designer has a brand called, Choosing How I Live Life (C-H-I-L-L). Cole grew up in Harlem, New York and studies Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design, but is living in Atlanta with his mother because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cole focuses his designs on printmaking but has recently been interested in modular design, an approach to fashion design in which clothes can be worn in more than one way or altered by the wearer. C-H-I-L-L is now selling a two-piece work vest for $120 on his online store that has a detachable bag and multiple uses. All the clothes from C-H-I-L-L are hand-sewn and printed by Cole in house.
Spending your money with Black artists is the main way one can support them, but letting an artist know that you see and respect their work is another way one can uplift a Black artist, Cole said. “One thing I love seeing is when I get a random message from someone you haven’t even seen before. And they’re like, ‘Hey, like, I love your stuff. It’s amazing.’ That is pushing me forward. That lets me know that I’m not just doing this in vain,” said Cole.