Tag Archives: obligation

the role of the artist

Last Saturday, I saw August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984) at Center Stage Theater located in Baltimore City. After viewing the play, I became interested in reading August Wilson’s ten plays, which chronicles the African-American experience for each decade of the 20th century. It is amazing that Wilson, a high school drop-out, became one of  America’s best playwrights. I love how Wilson dedicated his craft to depict  the history, struggle, and joy of African-Americans. He was not afraid to address controversial topics such as structural racism, exploitation, and self-hatred. In college, I took a course where we read and discussed various plays. For my presentation, I discussed August Wilson and Suzan-Lori Parks. I learned a lot. Before Wilson wrote a single play, he was a poet. As mentioned previously, he dropped out of school as a teenager. To occupy his free time, Wilson would spend hours at the local library reading books. Also, he studied the unemployed Black men he saw congregating on the street corners.  He paid attention to the men’s speech patterns, cadence, and gestures. Combining both his observation and word craftsmanship, Wilson has written literary gems. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes in Drama for Fences (1986)  and The Piano Lesson (1990). Sadly, in 2005, Wilson died at the age of 60 due to liver cancer; however, his legacy and work are here for eternity. I write all of this to say: Art should educate the masses. It should awaken people’s sensibilities. The best art makes the viewer question the perceived truths of the world. Being an artist involves making sacrifices. It means that you will ruffle feathers, but who cares? Artists are supposed to respond to the world. We are observers and commentators. We must take our craft seriously. We have the chance to impact lives. We have a gift. And a glorious burden.

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