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Movie Review: The Radiant Child (2010)

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Jean Michel Basquiat, The Radiant Child

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while minimalist, conceptual art was the fad; as a successful black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions.

My Review: One of the best things about this documentary was how well its subject matter was presented. The director Tamra Davis did an excellent job combining her own personal interview footage of Jean-Michel Basquiat with interviews of those who knew and worked with him. In addition, images of Basquiat’s artwork were well shown because you also see what influenced it. For instance, you would see footage of the cut-out method used by the poet William S. Burroughs and then see that method in a colorful Basquiat painting.

Another good aspect about this documentary was how Langston Hughes’ poem “Genius Child” was used to sum up his life. The poem is used as an epigraph at the beginning of the film and then spoken aloud as an epitaph at the end.  For the first time viewers, it haunts them and makes them think more about who they are learning about.

Besides the use of the poem “Genius Child”, the way blues, jazz, and classical music was used in the film was poignant. It immerses the viewer in different moments in Basquiat’s life and puts the viewer in either Basquiat’s point-of-view or his peers point-of-view.  One example is when his work ethic is being described and you hear fast-paced jazz music. As a viewer, one can then imagine Basquiat painting  like crazy.

The only flaw in the film is that you don’t see if Basquiat influenced any of today’s artists. Given that Basquiat was a graffiti artist and then a painter during the emergence of hip-hop culture, he must have had some influence on hip-hop artists today. In fact, it would have been interesting to see if Basquiat influenced any of today’s artists in general. His work that focused on black history could have easily been an influence on today’s Afrofuturism culture.

Overall, this was a great documentary on a brilliant yet fragile artist. I recommend this to any art enthusiast and any black person who wants to see art they can relate to.



Written by Serena Zola

July 13, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Why Every Black Person Should Celebrate Black Music Month

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On Sunday June 1st, I discovered that June was Black Music Month when For Harriet,  the blog I’m interning for mentioned on about having t-shirts with the names of female black musicians. Since then, I’ve realized that other black people may not be aware of Black Music month and why it should be celebrated.

According to the website for the National Museum for African American Music, black music month was originally founded in 1979 by Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams in order to celebrate the impact  of black music. However, it wasn’t formerly recognized as a national event until the year 2000.

In 2009, President Barack Obama took it further by calling Black Music Month by a second name, African American Music Appreciation Month.

With all the hip-hop and R n’ B music dominating the charts and radio airwaves, it seems unnecessary to have an entire month dedicated to black music. However, we have done so much more than this.

For instance, any true rock music enthusiast will tell you that rock came from blues, jazz, country, and gospel mixed together. Recently, I did a Buzzfeed listicle featuring some of the black men and women who influenced rock in the past and a little taste of the rock music being done by black musicians today.

Thanks to the multimedia and multi-genre movement  known as Afropunk, black people have a chance to express themselves in ways that aren’t shown in most of the mainstream media. Last month, I did a post on my top ten Afropunk musicians.

We should take this month to celebrate the fact that black people have and will contribute so much amazing music in various genres. They may not sell a million records or win a ton of awards, but that shouldn’t matter. As long as ears are listening, music will always matter.





Written by Serena Zola

June 4, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Op-Ed: What’s Wrong With Reading?

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This week, I was happy to read an article that defends reading for pleasure. It was reprinted on the Huffington Post from Youth Communication. The article was written by a fifteen year old named Anthony Turner.

I wish I had been able to find someone like Anthony among my black peers when I was in high school.  Like Anthony, I was teased for enjoying reading in high school. Unlike him though, I couldn’t take pride in what I loved because I felt alone and that I didn’t have a place to belong. Fortunately, I managed to identify with literary characters like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Ponyboy Curtis from the teen fiction book The Outsiders.

In the article, Anthony mentions that black youth culture prizes guys who are athletes and musicians. A similar value is placed on black women. Instead of intelligence, black youth culture values women’s looks and how provocative they are.

While the same thing can be said of men and women of almost any race, Anthony mentions that black and Hispanic men have the lowest graduation rates. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 37 percent of Hispanic female students and 40 percent of black female students drop out of high school.

How sad is it that a good chunk of young minorities become nothing more than a statistic?

There are two things that cause reading to be disdained: the lack of a good family rearing and the influence of the mass media, especially entertainment media. A less minor reason is that the right book isn’t being read.

As a black female, I am grateful that my parents showed me the value of an education and instilled in me a love of reading. In fact, my mother told me that she read while I was still in her womb. Not sure if it’s true, but it paid off.

With the influence of the media, some minority youth are brainwashed into selling themselves short. If you don’t do what is considered cool or popular, then you are considered lame. Even worse, some minority youth are asked by their peers and others, “Why don’t you act more Hispanic?” or “Why don’t you act more black?”

I was asked the latter question indirectly. Despite the angst I felt with that and being teased, I rebelled against the status quo and kept reading for pleasure and being myself.

What most of my peers didn’t know is that I only liked reading for pleasure when I could choose the books I wanted to read. I hated reading the majority of books that were assigned to us in high school. Thanks to the library and a cool teacher who introduced me to teen fiction in middle school, I found material that I enjoyed.

Now in college, I have gained pride in being a bibliophile and share that pride with others by blogging. I hope Anthony Hall’s pride never fades and continues to grow.

If more young people like me and Anthony can develop the courage and resilience to become knowledgable and follow their passions no matter what, then this world will become smarter, more unique, and awesome.

Written by Serena Zola

September 21, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Call for a Celebration of All Culture

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As you may have noticed, I’ve  been posting things in order to celebrate Black History Month. While I am proud of my heritage and culture, I also appreciate other people’s culture too. Yet, it seems like most young people in my generation and the generations coming up can’t see outside their own ethnicity. Even though there is nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage, too much of it can cause you to become close minded.

For the most part, today’s youth culture is unhealthy because of its emphasis on conformity rather than individuality. Other harmful things such as prejudice and discrimination can cause young people as well as everyone else to develop an “Us versus the world” perspective.

Recently, I read an article that says ninety percent of students arrested for crimes in New York City are black and latino.

Ever notice the race of some of the people arrested for crimes anywhere?

Ever consider the effect of that on people?

One of the most awful effects of stories like the one above is prejudice and discrimination in a never-ending cycle. Some people see these stories and assume all people of a certain ethnicity commit crimes.  They may discriminate against a race so much that they embed that hatred into some people. After a while, the hatred from one turns into self-hate and anger that may eventually explode out in self-destructive or violent ways. The latter can lead to crimes being committed because that person feels they have no choice but to be the criminal people expect them to be.

A similar effect occurs with stereotypes. The stereotypes of blacks and Latinos are similar; the only difference is the culture. For a student of these ethnicities, these stereotypes could cause them not only to become violent, but also to dumb themselves down in school. For instance, for a black student to make good grades is considered “being white” to some other blacks.

In addition, cliques can be formed from different ethnicities as well. I remember being in high school and seeing a whole table of Asians, a whole table of blacks, and a whole table of Hispanics. There were less white students than other minority students, so I can’t say for sure about them. However, I do remember being one of few students who sat with peers of different ethnicities. I had Asian friends, black friends, Mexican friends, and white friends. They were few and in between, but they were friends.

Being friends with different people of different ethnicities really broadened my perspective and helped me develop an appreciation for different cultures. Today, that appreciation is stronger than ever. We should all come together and focus on our similarities rather than our differences, because we are all connected as human beings.

Written by Serena Zola

February 23, 2012 at 9:35 PM

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