I often feel like I’m typing into the void (I am, I know it; it’s somewhat by design). But, every once in a while, I’m reassured that my thoughts are reasonably constructed and connected in valid ways to the things on which I reflect.
I’ve been thinking about journalism a lot lately, and the way that some journalists have a very narrow ‘beat’ and others have a general genre and are given free reign to cover a variety of topics in that sphere. For instance, ahead of Basquiat: Boom For Real at the Barbican Centre Art Gallery in London, The Guardian has run a series of articles by their staff writers about Jean-Michel Basquiat covering everything from his personal aesthetic to race/power/money to one-off meetings with the artist to in-depth reflections from some who knew him well. Their writing is erudite, insightful, but, for my tastes, a little too broad given the people who I’ve known to work on contextualizing Basquiat’s work and life within African Diasporic (Afro-Caribbean and Black American) histories and culture rather than as a central-yet-marginal figure in the all-too rarefied and white ‘art world’.1
Seph Rodney‘s work at Hyperallergic, is, to me, the antithesis of what The Guardian has done with Baquiat. Rodney’s perspective is critical, steeped in research, and shapes his pointed questions about art and community. So, it seems fitting that, as a conscious or unconscious rejoinder to the inclusion of THAT essay in Hyperallergic’s Required Reading for the week ending/beginning September 10, 2017, Rodney re-interviewed an artist and ‘Dreamer’ currently attending art school, THAT art school. The opening of the interview vindicates my ire with THAT essay:2
Seph Rodney: Hi REDACTED. We’re having this conversation because we had talked last year about your immigration status and how that affected your experience as an art student at CCA. Now we want to follow up, given what’s happened in the past week, with the president ending DACA. We had exchanged emails, and you said that you felt very precarious, very anxious about what was happening, and that you might lose the Cal Grant funding you have. Is that still the case?
REDACTED: I believe so, yes, because previous to having DACA I was not able to actually transfer from community college to California College of the Arts. Without DACA, I had actually applied to California College of the Arts and got accepted, but I wasn’t able to make the transition because I didn’t have the Cal Grant, so the Cal Grant plays a huge role in me being able to continue [my studies].
I should be in the last semester of my junior year, but because I don’t know what’s happening with DACA and these six months are just living in a limbo, I’m actually starting my senior year instead, and I’m forced to put all my classes into a very hectic schedule so that I can graduate Spring of 2018. My DACA expires October of 2018, which I knew was going to happen and so the best I can do is graduate before October, just to guarantee that I will finish here at CCA.
SR: Right. Because the alternative is if you’re not done, then you basically have no degree and you may be deported.
REDACTED: Correct. Exactly. And that is one of my biggest fears right now, I’m actually doing, I think, seven classes, and the normal is five or four, no more than that, but because I can’t lose the scholarship that I have and I can’t go halfway through with my education, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get out of here next spring, just to guarantee that I won’t lose everything I’ve worked for so far.
- Off hand: Tosha Grantham did work on Baquiat at the Smithsonian when she was a grad student at Howard; Franklin Sirmans curated Basquiat and the Bayou for Prospect New Orleans; Kevin Young‘s To Repel Ghosts (the double album) and its Remix… hip hop, poetry, biography, musings, elegy…) ↩︎
- Rodney’s first interview with the artist is An Undocumented Artist Shares Her Experience of Alienation in the US. ↩︎