DETROIT, Michigan – Jonathan Harris wants his art to spark important discussions.
“My goal is to tell Black’s story from my perspective,” said the Detroit artist. “I hope the world picks it up and says, ‘I want to change my mind about certain situations. “
Harris created a piece that might go on to tell stories about the history of black Americans.
“The piece is titled ‘Critical Race Theory,’” Harris said. “The piece shows our historical figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman on a path together and a Caucasian person drawing over those characters. Critical race theory, to me, is the history of the coming of blacks to America before America and in America. I just believe that date should be told. I know it’s not pretty and it’s very sad, but that’s how it heals. You don’t say it didn’t happen and cover it up. That’s all blacks want – is to address this and move forward.”
Some experts say Harris’ paintings are one of many across the country that capture this moment in time and reflect the critical role of art as history.
“In terms of art’s role in history and society, it goes back to the beginning of humanity,” said James Dozier, an expert on black art and history. There are panels showing the raised black fist, and there are panels depicting the struggles of various civil rights champions. I think it will become one of the iconic images to harken back to this period. It is always exciting for an artist to be able to take up a complex subject, distill it and present it at the core of my poetry.”
Harris hopes this article will spark further discussion for anyone who sees it. But most importantly, he hopes this generation of artists will have a positive impact on the country’s future.
“That’s the only way we’re going to make any progress,” Harris said. “We have to feel uncomfortable before we feel comfortable, and we have to have difficult conversations like this.”