CSU artists reflect on Black History Month

Isabelle Rayburn

Art is something that can be expressed in many different ways, whether it comes to personal style, photography or graphic design — the possibilities of self-expression are endless.

Since Black History Month recently came to a close, a few Colorado State University artists of color highlighted how they express themselves through art that focuses on the needs and representation of the Black community, especially here on campus. 

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Art has been a huge platform in the Black community, but it has also been something that is not displayed often in the United States. Black artists continually have to work twice as hard for their representation in the art community for all forms of art.

Jaquikeyah Fields is a third-year ethnic studies and women’s and gender studies student. Fields expresses herself through painting and drawing with a primary focus on Blackness. The history of the features of Black people has largely shown them in a negative light, and Fields is determined to show how beautiful Black features are. 

“A lot of my work focuses on an Afrocentric perspective,” Fields said. “Usually I enjoy painting with watercolor. To use an art medium such as watercolor, to depict the beauty in Black features is therapeutic. Moreover, I am capable of showing people the beauty in Black features through art.”

For Fields, her love for art is rooted in the way that she was brought up. 

“I have vivid memories of my mother painting while growing up,” Fields said. “That was a medium she worked with if it wasn’t makeup or hair. I enjoyed watching her because she was so still, and I would never know what would come out of the strokes she hauled, but it was always fun to watch.”

Fields said that all artists have a goal when they are creating art and are portraying an idea that was created in their minds. This type of idea is the same for other forms of art also.

Kerriana Tatum, a fourth-year English major, has a different approach to her art — hairstyles. 

Hairstyles have been an art form in the Black community for ages. During slavery, braids were used as a form of escape maps so that slaves could flee toward freedom. They have a huge meaning in the Black community because of this history and more.

Through Tatum’s art, she makes sure that this is still represented today.

“Black hair care is important because it is yet another aspect of our identities that (has) been policed in the U.S.,” Tatum said. “We’re still in a discriminatory society, but there were times when laws were made against natural Black hairstyles, and the legacy and impact of that discrimination has lasted so long that there are laws being introduced to ban hair discrimination. Because of this, we’ve seen that Black hair is an expression of ourselves and our culture, and it is art.”

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Tatum said that every Black person has many different options on how to do their hair, and it takes a certain level of artistry to see the many ways that Black hairstyles can be styled and appreciated.

Many Black women have been forced to participate in Eurocentric beauty standards because of the hair discrimination they face. Black women often ruin their natural curl pattern in order to do this. 

“My hair journey is very much rooted in how I have been limited in expressing myself,” Tatum said. 

Tatum said that she was one of the people who didn’t appreciate her kinky hair at one point. She explains that her story is not unique because of the societal pressures that influence Black people to dim their natural features in order to fit in.

“I don’t do hair just to make money,” Tatum said. “I love (the) creative expression and satisfaction I get when a client sees their braids and twists. When my Black clients are still excited about a traditional hairstyle that has been around for decades, that’s how I know I’m doing the right thing. I don’t know how others feel when they do hair, but I’m elated and excited to see different lengths, colors, textures and more when I do hair.”

At the end of the day, Tatum will always keep her love for Black hairstyles close to her heart.

“My passion for doing Black hair is a direct correlation to culture and expression,” Tatum said. “Not only do I express myself, but my client expresses themselves. I want people to know that I’m not perfect, and I want people to know that I keep doing work to improve on my work. I want non-Black people to know that Black hair is not a costume that they can just throw on and appropriate because we as a people have been limited in our expression for centuries, and this hair means something to us — every braid, every part, every twist. And yes, we are still scrutinized for what others are praised for, even when it comes to hair.”

Isabelle Rayburn can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @IsabelleRayburn