Visual Arts

Conceptual artist, philosopher, queen of her own image; Adrian Piper is one of my favorite artists. I became aware of her work during my first trip to New York when I visited the MoMA. The entire 6th floor was dedicated to an exhibition of her life’s work: “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965-2016” I was breathless, and I knew there wasn’t enough time in the world to appreciate it all. What I saw gave me a new nuanced and inclusive understanding of art. I was amazed by all of the parts of her life she was able to document, and the messages they shared on topics ranging from race to political sociology to spirituality. She now lives in Germany where she continues to make art and does very little press. Her reasoning?: “I decided a long time ago that I would prefer no representation to misrepresentation.” -Zenzelé Clarke

Thomas uses photography and symbols to compare contemporary life and icons to black history. From national league sports and cotton picking and branding, vodka and slave ships, and the loss of his own cousin to gun violence to what seems like a credit card advertisement, Thomas explores the exploitation black people in capitalist America. -Nande Walters

He is a photographer known for his portraiture and street photography of black communities in the US. His 5-year project Harlem USA documents life in Harlem in the 1970s. Everything from a boy eating a popsicle, a man in his barbershop, to women going to church. His Birmingham Project features portraits of black men and women the ages of the victims of the Birmingham bombing in 1963, and how old they would be today. In his most recent photo series Night Coming Tenderly, Black, Bey uses landscapes to visualize the perspective of Black people during the Civil War and through the Underground Railroad. Bey compares the past and imagined future in ways African Americans are historically unable to be able to. - Nande Walters

As an artist, activist and children’s author Ringgold (b. 1930, Harlem, New York) has challenged perceptions of African American identity and gender inequality for over five decades. Growing up in the creative and intellectual context of the Harlem Renaissance and inspired by her contemporaries including writers James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka, she is widely recognised for her painted story quilts combining personal narratives, history and politics “to tell my story, or, more to the point, my side of the story”, as an African American woman. - Serpentine Galleries

Marrying formal rigor and social engagement, Marshall’s practice foregrounds painting but encompasses a range of media, from comics to sculpture, striving towards a literal and conceptual Black aesthetic. Often, his work showcases the daily lives of Black Americans, either as standalone portraits or positioned within larger landscapes, domestic interiors or significant historical events, though tone and subject matter vary widely. - Jack Shainman Gallery

Renee Cox: The main inspiration for my work comes from my life experiences. I use myself as a conduit for my photographs because I think that working with the self is the most honest representation of being. I am working toward regaining a “self-love,” not a narcissism, for the black female body as articulated by bell hooks in her book Sisters of the Yam. Slavery stripped black men and women of their dignity and identity and that history continues to have an adverse affect on the African American psyche. - Renee Cox, Brooklyn Museum

Lyle Ashton Harris has cultivated a diverse artistic practice ranging from photography and collage to installation and performance art. His work explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender, and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic. -

Toyin Ojih Odutola: Her work is inspired by both art history and popular culture, as well as her own personal history—being born in Nigeria then moving as a child to America where she was raised in conservative Alabama. The idea of traveling or transporting the self is a recurring theme in her work and, for Ojih Odutola, the construction of her figures is a means of discovering an individual’s character and personal story. Though the representation of skin has been a core focus of her practice, she has also explored depictions of landscapes, architecture and domestic interiors in more recent series. - Jack Shainman Gallery

Lina Iris Viktor: Her photography, painting and sculptural installations are infused with cultural histories of the global African diaspora and preoccupied with multifaceted notions of blackness: as colour, as material and as socio-political consciousness. To Viktor, black is the proverbial materia prima: the source, the dark matter that birthed everything - Autograph

She is an artist popularly known for her photography, including her The Kitchen Table and From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. Weems’ explores race, history, and the lives of everyday black people in her work. From curating and having art in museums all over the country, Weems is a black woman that creates genuinely and honestly, sparking emotion from everything she makes. - Nande Walters

James Van Der Zee was a 20th century photographer who was known for his glamour portraits of black people during the Harlem Renaissance. Van Der Zee photographed couples in extravagant raccoon coats, wedding parties, church groups, basketball teams and more. His photos are taken with attention and care, and though camera technology wasn’t perfect in the 1920s, his subjects were elegant and well dressed with wide smiles on their faces. - From the essay “Lighting Black Skin” by Nande Walters

Check out our Streaming Watchlist and Recommendations!
NetflixTV:  Pose, Girlfriends, Moesha, Sister, Sister, The Parkers, Hip-Hop Evolution, The Get Down, Lupin, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker  - Movies: Moonlight, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Forty-Year-Old Version, The Princess and the Frog, Canvas, See You Yesterday, Barry, School Daze, Fruitvale Station, Da Five Bloods, Jumping the Broom, Are We There Yet?, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, The Incredible Jessica James,  Homecoming, Becoming, 13th, Disclosure, What Happened Miss Simone, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Hulu TV: Atlanta, Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Snowfall, Black-ish, Key & Peele, Woke, Everybody Hates Chris, Bernie Mac Show, Living Single, Moesha, Sister, Sister, Queen Sugar, Your Attention Please, Flip or Flop Fort Worth - Movies: Sorry to Bother You, If Beale Street Could Talk, Creed II, I Am Not Your Negro, Jumping the Broom, Southside With You, Naz & Maalik, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, 
Amazon Prime - TV: A Different World, Small Axe - Movies:  Time, The Last Black Man in San Franciso, Sylvie’s Love, One Night in Miami, Guava Island, Southside With You, I Am Not Your Negro, The Radiant Child, Betty Davis - Betty: They Say I’m Different, Legend, Coming to America, Vampire in Brooklyn
HBO Max TV: Insecure, I May Destroy You, Lovecraft Country, A Black Lady Sketch Show, 2 Dope Queens, Key & Peele, Fresh Prince of Bel-air, The Wayans Bros, The Boondocks, Random Acts of Flyness, Hair Wolf, Watchmen, Luther, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas - Movies: The Photograph, Little, Us, City of God, Touki Bouki, Black Girl, Between the World and Me, The Color Purple, Purple Rain, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Malcom X, Just Mercy, Red Tails, Bessie, Introducing Dorothy Dandrindge, The Auto Biography of Miss Jane Pittman, Being Serena, What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali, John Lewis: Good Trouble, Black Art: In The Absence of Light, Yvonne Orrji: Momma, I Made It!
Kanopy Movies: Tongues Untied, The Watermelon Woman, Sidewalk Stories, Born in Flames, Daughters of the Dust, Dolemite, I Am Not Your Negro  Personal Problems, Ethnic Notions, Color Adjustment, How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It), Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun, bell hooks, Lip, Nas: Time Is Illmatic, Race Against Prime Time, Through a Lens Darkly
Criterion Channel Movies: Afronauts, Black Girl, Portrait of Jason, Black Mother, Babylon, Sidewalk Stories, Born in Flames, The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye, Ethnic Notions, Black Is... Black Ain’t, Bless Their Little Hearts, Native Son, Daughters of the Dust

When Insecure came out in 2016 I instantly saw myself in this show (despite being only 16 years old.) A timeless yet nostalgic encapsulation of black women in their 30s figuring life out, succeeding and failing, falling in and out of love with partners and with friends. With its perfectly paced, dramatic, and comedic, 30-minute episodes, the show’s final season is set to release later in 2021. Over the past 4 years, Issa Rae has carried me on a rollercoaster of emotions. By bringing this show to the mainstream from her 2011 web series Awkward Black Girl, Issa has continued to be my #1 inspiration; showing me that black women really can do anything.​​​​​​​ -Nande Walters

"Many shows with all-black casts tend to be pigeon-holed as a “black show”; a term which can be celebratory and unduly restrictive all at once. Often black media is confined to a few predictable and stereotypical formats, banishing everything else to the world of “not for us.” Atlanta follows Earn who is struggling to make ends meet while working as the manager of his cousin’s rap career. This show is unique in the way it rejects categorization and defies genre. Anyone who has watched Atlanta has experienced something delightfully unexpected; every time you think you understand the tone, another element is thrown into the narrative to keep you vigilant and curious. Atlanta is a black show, and it is anything and everything it wants to be."  -Zenzelé Clarke

Watermelon Woman is a clear example of filmmaking with a deliberate oppositional gaze. This was the debut feature film of Cheryl Dunye, who wrote, directed and starred in the film. She plays a filmmaker, also named Cheryl, who watches an old VHS with a black actress who is credited to the name of “Watermelon Woman.” Cheryl decides to make a documentary on her journey to track down the true identity of the Watermelon Woman. This film gives a look into the black lesbian experience, an intersectional identity which is often erased by the media. Dunye’s combination of narrative and documentary offers a critical and authentic portrayal of the communities she claims; her vulnerability and vocality makes Watermelon Woman a seminal work of black female auteurism and representation. This is a film which epitomizes intimacy in its creation and content, teaching us how to subvert the gaze which wishes to stereotype us. - Zenzelé Clarke

“Filmmaker Marlon Riggs is known for his documentary style of unique and personal subject matter and the use of traditional and experimental elements. His 1989 film Tongues Untied is structured by language with voice-over narration from Riggs himself, as well as spoken word poetry, dance performance, and original music from gay black men like himself. This film was both a phenomenon and controversy around its release, but 30 years later, it’s an awarded and tributed icon of black queer cinema...Marlon Riggs experiments with mediums that aren’t film, like poetry and music, as a way of creative expression; as film art. The film is clearly personal to Riggs as he’s featured in the film. It’s a collection of personal stories by him and by people like him, making it a very subjective and objective film “based on the reality of lived experience… as ‘factual’ as traditional documentary itself.” - From the Essay ‘Language in Tongues Untied’ by Nande Walters

Ousmane Sembène’s 1966 film La Noire de… (Black Girl) is considered a pioneering work of African cinema. It follows the story of a Senegalese woman who experiences a tragic decline after moving to France with her white employers as a live-in maid. This is a movie which offers a clarity in its discomfort through a portrait of colonial suffering. - Zenzelé Clarke

In a modern interpretation of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, Charles Lane stars, writes, and directs this nearly silent film in 1989. It tells the story of a houseless artist who witnesses a man’s murder; the man’s toddler left alone in an alley. As a black man, The Artist fears going to the police and instead takes the girl in as his own while searching for her relatives. (The child actress being Lane’s own daughter.) The black in white film creatively uses diegetic and nondiegetic sound to pay homage to the silent film era 60+ years later. It’s a heartening comedy filled with ridiculous moments and sincere commentary on the struggles of homelessness in 1980s New York City. - Nande Walters


More Than Enough: Claiming Space For Who You Are by Elaine Welteroth: "In the summer of 2019, I watched in awe as Elaine Welteroth spoke to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. I recognized her from cameos on Black-ish and Grown-ish but seeing this black woman with a huge afro and amazing style talk about coming up in the white world had me hooked. I learned that in 2016 she was the second black and youngest editor in chief at Teen Vogue and in Conde Nast history. I immediately went to my local library’s online catalog to pick up the book on its release date the next day. There are dozens of relatable stories in the book, inspiring quotes, and an overall message of finding confidence in your authentic self, especially as a black woman." -Nande Walters

The Oppositional Gaze by bell hooks: In her book titled Black Looks: Race and Representation bell hooks dedicated a section to discussing black female spectatorship of the cinema. In this essay she defines the “oppositional gaze” in terms of the power and danger of looking as a black person in America. This essay addresses the need for intersectional feminism in the field of film theory, and the peculiar position of black women in the media. - Zenzelé Clarke

Becoming by Michelle Obama: "In this perfectly timed memoir, former First Lady Michelle Obama tells us her life story. She eloquently describes her upbringing in Chicago, childlike observations of family and adulthood, her life at Princeton being a black girl, the odd one out, and of course, meeting Barrack. Michelle Obama shares the life lessons and values she learned over time. From loving and loss, raising two daughters, and from her time in the white house through to the 2017 inauguration. It’s a beautiful capsule of time, by one of the most highly respected women in my lifetime." -Nande Walters

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: "A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both." - Penguin Random House

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid Benta: Set in a neighbourhood known as "Little Jamaica," Frying Plantain follows one young girl from elementary school to high school graduation as she navigates the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation immigrants and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominantly white society. -

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: "The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?" -

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo: “Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean...These unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.” - Grove Atlantic

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson: “Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child... As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.” - Penguin Random House

It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan: “Loretha Curry’s life is full. A little crowded sometimes, but full indeed. On the eve of her sixty-eighth birthday, she has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise. True, she’s carrying a few more pounds than she should be, but Loretha is not one of those women who think her best days are behind her—and she’s determined to prove wrong her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of aging wrong. It’s not all downhill from here.” - Penguin Random House

Grand Union by Zadie Smith: "In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and her inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. Interleaving eleven completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from The New Yorker and elsewhere, Smith presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us." - Penguin Random House

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: "One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong Black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African American literature. - New York Public Library

Sula by Toni Morrison: “This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation. Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, and submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America.” - New York Public Library

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate For Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers: “Drawing on Black intellectual and grassroots organizing traditions, including the Haitian Revolution, the US civil rights movement, and LGBTQ rights and feminist movements, Unapologetic challenges all of us engaged in the social justice struggle to make the movement for Black liberation more radical, more queer, and more feminist.” -

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin: “From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce white supremacy and deepen social inequity. Far from a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, Benjamin argues that automation has the potential to hide, speed, and even deepen discrimination, while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the New Jim Code, she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity...” - Brooklyn Public Library

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell:  “Talking to Strangers, is a typically roundabout exploration of the assumptions and mistakes we make when dealing with people we don’t know. If that sounds like a rather vague area of study, that’s because in many respects it is – there are all manner of definitional and cultural issues through which Gladwell boldly navigates a rather convenient path.” - The Guardian

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde: “In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde-scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde’s philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published.” - Penguin Random House

Hunger by Roxane Gay: “In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.” - Brooklyn Public Library

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin: “Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was only in his twenties, the essays collected in Notes of a Native Son capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement and as the movement slowly gained strength through the words of one of the most captivating essayists and foremost intellectuals of that era. Writing as an artist, activist, and social critic, Baldwin probes the complex condition of being black in America.” - Penguin Random House

Small Doses by Amanda Seales: “Comedian, writer, actress, and social media star Amanda Seales is a force of nature who has fearlessly and passionately charted her own course through life and career. Now, in her one-of-a-kind voice that blends academic intellectualism, Black American colloquialisms, and pop culture fanaticism, she’s bringing her life’s lessons and laughs to the page. This volume of essays, axioms, original illustrations, and photos provides Seales’s trademark “self-help from the hip” style of commentary, fueled by ideology formed from her own victories, struggles, research, mistakes, risks, and pay-offs.” - Goodreads

The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae: “In this debut collection of essays written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.” - Goodreads

Survival of the Thickest by Michelle Buteau: “You'd be forgiven for thinking the road to success--or adulthood or financial stability or self-acceptance or marriage or motherhood--has been easy; but you'd be wrong... Now, in Survival of the Thickest, Michelle reflects on growing up Caribbean, Catholic, and thick in New Jersey, going to college in Miami (where everyone smells like pineapple), her many friendship and dating disasters, working as a newsroom editor during 9/11, getting started in standup opening for male strippers, marrying into her husband's Dutch family, IVF and surrogacy, motherhood, chosen family, and what it feels like to have a full heart, tight jeans, and stardom finally in her grasp.” -


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