After 999 drawings, created and posted over the last 6½ years, I’ve finally reached the last two portraits in my 1001 Black Men Online Sketchbook.
You may have noticed that most of my drawings depict Black men in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve lived in Oakland, California since 1999, and the portraits in this series depict the people I encounter in my day-to-day life.
For my last two drawings, though, I’ve looked outside the Bay Area to include two of my favorite Black men, the first an old friend and new colleague, and the second a beloved family member. I will begin a new portrait-based series later this month, and in that series, I will include several of the local African American men who I was not able to include in the 1001 Black Men series; but because that next project focuses solely on Bay Area residents, I will be able to include neither of these last two figures, because each lives far outside our SF Bay region.
Drawing #1000 is a portrait of Scott Poulson-Bryant. If you’ve ever picked up an issue of Vibe Magazine or watched the late 1990s VH1 series Four on the Floor, then you’ll probably recognize him. He spent years as a journalist, and was widely known for his insightful and nuanced work on hip-hop music and its personalities. Today, Scott is an Assistant Professor of English at Fordham University, where he teaches courses in African American literature and cultural studies.
I first met Scott during our early undergraduate years at Brown University, where we shared an interest in writing and pop culture as well as a love of hip-hop dance parties. In the years since that time, we’ve crossed paths on both coasts, as we’ve each made our way through careers in that interesting and generative space where African American culture, arts, and literature meet.
The story of Scott’s journey from Brown University undergrad to hip-hop journalist (and one of the founders of Vibe Magazine) to Harvard PhD student to Fordham Professor is as unexpected as it is inspiring; and it’s a story he tells best. Check out this recent interview on the Fordham English website: Faculty Highlights–Scott Poulson-Bryant.
The man in this drawing was was one of a handful of other Black people I saw at the Fourth of July fireworks display I attended last year in Benbow, Humboldt County, California. Benbow is an incredibly small town (population 321), but the fireworks display was incredible! Each burst of color and fire and light was more impressive than the one before, and the display went on for much longer than I’d anticipated.
If you’ve ever been in East Oakland during the Fourth of July holiday, you may get the impression that young brothas are the most patriotic people in these United States–that is, if the purchase and use of
illegal unsanctioned fireworks is any indication of commitment to God and country. Back in 2007, I briefly rented a house at the edge of East Oakland. The house had a terrace on the back, and on the Fourth of July, I could stand on that terrace see fireworks going off on streets all around me. I have to give these young brothers their due; there is no doubt in my mind that the display I could see from my terrace was bigger and more lavish than the official fireworks displays in certain small towns, but certainly not bigger that the no-holds-barred awesome display I saw in Benbow.
Seen on a warm afternoon at one of the outdoor tables at The Habit, one of my oldest niece’s favorite burger joints.
At Sweet Fingers Caribbean Restaurant, Brooklyn, New York.
Sweet Bar Bakery and Cafe, Broadway, Oakland, CA.
If you wear pink glasses and a pink t-shirt, then you have definitely earned a pink and purple psychedelic background.
Times Square subway station, New York, NY., April 2016.
Standing in front of Gomes Tire and Auto, at the corner of International and 50th St., Oakland, CA.
Montgomery BART station, San Francisco, CA.
This drawing is based on a brotha I saw in Alameda, sipping a smoothie outside Jamba Juice. I took a few liberties with his image, like making his hair reach about twice as high as it actually extended (he did have a lot of hair, though) and turning his smoothie into a glass of lemonade.*
*I briefly considered using this piece for a lemon-themed art show, this past summer. In the end, though, I created a different drawing for that show.
This is a portrait of Bay Area African American artist Courageous. One of the most talented and prolific artists I’ve ever encountered, Courageous works in paint, sculpture, pencil, and even furniture making. It seems that every time I see one of his new works, it reveals another medium or subject in which he has achieved artistic excellence.
Check out his Mesart website for an overview of his work. Click through the portfolio pages, and linger for a while. The works on this site provide just a glimpse of Courageous’s range, but you’ll clearly see that this is an artist who embraces risk, who has carefully honed his technique, and whose love of Blackness knows no bounds.