“We have to create and celebrate Black History everyday,” said Michael Williams, the director of the Black Studies Program.
The Black Studies Program kicked off Black History Month on Feb. 3 with art gallery and talk with Cleveland-native visual artist Jerome T. White.
This year’s Black History Month theme at CSU is “Expressions of Us.” All the events at CSU, like film presentations and lecture discussions, will address the frequently occurring issues in the African-American community, as well as more general issues between men and women.
The Howard A. Mims African-American Cultural Center was packed with Cleveland State University students, faculty, staff and community members to hear and see White’s work. Different issues and topics were addressed in the welcome address and with White himself.
In the welcome address, Prester Pickett, the Coordinator of the Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center, and Williams addressed some important current and recurrent topics within the African-American community.
In the weeks leading up to Black History Month, facets of the media have addressed topics such as “Who represents and expresses us, the African-American community?” and “Why do we wait until the shortest and coldest month of the year to celebrate Black History Month?”
These two topics have been very important lately because as an African-American, community we have been trying to get out of the habit of waiting until February to celebrate, create and address black history. Both Pickett and Williams agreed that “Black History Month should be celebrated 24/7, 365 days a year and not just in February.”
White was born and raised in Cleveland. He graduated from Cleveland Heights High School, then went to Tuskegee University but graduated with his B.A. in fine arts from Baldwin Wallace. White later earned his Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve.
He is currently teaching at his former high school alongside his old art teacher and credits artists such as Winslow Homer, John Biggers and Charles White for shaping his style and influencing his art. White uses spiritual symbolism and features both social and historical messages in his artwork.
“My journey started out when I started college at Tuskegee University where I wanted to be an architect, but that is when I transferred to Baldwin Wallace and majored in visual and studio art,” said White. “Everyone has a journey that they go through in life to find themselves as individuals, what type of career they want to have and what type of person they want to be.”
In White’s journey, he tried to get a job in animation with Walt Disney Studios. He was actually able to audition, but never received a call back. He moved to Norfolk, Va. briefly in 1994 before returning to Cleveland in 1997 when he started teaching art in the public school system.
Being a Cleveland native and local visual artist, White has teamed up with other local artist such as Anna Arnold, Ed Parker and Neal Hamilton to give back to the community. This past summer, they were all part of the Community Arts Mural Project, where they painted different murals in three neighborhoods in Cleveland.
White’s community mural can be found at the Glenville Development Center. He has also done some mural artwork for NASA to celebrate 100 years of aviation. This is not the first time White’s artwork has been on display at CSU. Both he and Arnold had pieces featured in the 2007-2008 art exhibit “Have We Forgotten… ‘Still in Chains'” in the CSU art gallery.
The artwork that White has on display in “The Unveiled Journey” exhibit is related to Black History Month. “Whenever I do any type of artwork, I love to tell and record history,” said White.
“The Unveiled Journey” is about the different journeys African-Americans had to go through to get to where we are now. Some journeys are untold because individuals do not tell it or bring it to light. White’s “unveiled journey” is told through his artwork; each piece represents a different story in historical history.
One of his community murals, titled “Bound For Glory,” located at the intersection of East 105th and Superior represents the Cleveland Underground Railroad and the Underground Railroad which Harriet Tubman led. It emphasizes how they both actually go together in history.
White has high hopes for the city of Cleveland, “our people are bound for a better life,” said white. Each art piece represents a time throughout White’s journey as well as the journeys of other African-Americans.
White’s latest exhibit “We Have Come (Part I): The Unveiled Journey,” is on display outside of the Howard A. Mims Cultural Center in the Main Classroom until Feb. 25.