Black Youth, Racial Politics Are the Heart of Art Beats + Lyrics Exhibit in Atlanta

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Jabari Graham and Dwayne “Dubelyoo” Wright, founders of Art Beats + Lyrics
Jabari Graham and Dwayne “Dubelyoo” Wright, founders of Art Beats + Lyrics

Dwayne “Dubelyoo” Wright, an illustrator and painter, is the co-founder and a curator for Art Beats + Lyrics. He teamed up with founder Jabari Graham in 2004 to launch the exhibit in Atlanta.

“It was at a bar in Little Five Points [Georgia],” Dubelyoo told Atlanta Black Star. “Couple hundred people came.”

By the next year, the duo opened at the High Museum of Art and sold out in two hours. Today, the tour travels around the country to showcase Black art and music to “move the culture forward,” according to the website.jack-daniels-throne-min

Presented by Jack Daniels, Art Beats + Lyrics’ partnership with the whiskey manufacturer has continued since 2008. Above, attendees gather around the Old No. 7 Brand throne to take a photo alongside the Jack Honey girls.

Dubleyoo5-minEntitled, “Bring the Pain” Dubelyoo’s series began two years ago and focuses on combat sports.

“I got into doing self-defense training,” he explained of his kickboxing and sparring pastimes. “That was where my personal passions and hobbies led into my artwork. And the theme is basically being a fighter and … being strong.”

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“Mike Tyson’s one of my favorite people [and] favorite fighter so Mike Tyson’s in there,” Dubelyoo said. “Champions like Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier – both people who fought Ali multiple times.”

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Dubelyoo’s centerpiece is called ‘Game Changer’ and he explained the delicacy of showing a female boxer in art, since many are not keen on seeing women getting punched.

“I was supposed to be working on a [boxing champion Clarissa Shields] piece and this one at the same time,” he shared. “As an artist, you have to come up with a way that you can get your point across, without necessarily turning people away. So I wanted to show her getting ready to go into battle.”

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An artist collective made up of creatives Goldi Gold, Kevin “Mr. Soul” Harp and Craig “C Flux” Singleton created different pieces centering on the theme Young, Gifted and Black.

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“I drew a young girl in her own little fantasy world and the marker represents her ability to dream and create above and beyond her current means,” Harp said in describing his piece. “Using her creativity, she could be an artist, she could be a writer, she could be a future president. But she’s a young, gifted and Black child who has the opportunity to soar. So it’s really about presenting our youth in a light where they’re inspired to go above and beyond what their environment dictates. And even what the media and propaganda dictates.”

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In a piece by Goldi Gold called, “Chain Heavy: The Lost Files,” it features the faces of Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown on gold chains. Tattoos list the names of prominent Black men and women lynched by police.

“You know, a lot of times rappers wear gold chains, but it don’t have no meaning.” Goldi Gold explained. “I was just showing, ‘What if it did have meaning?’ And it’ll be more impactful. If everything had meaning, it’ll show more purpose of what you’re wearing instead of just material.”
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For Craig “C Flux” Singleton’s piece, he focused on the experiences of a young Black boy bound to pursue his passions.

“It deals with having that power within and bringing it out,” C Flux said. “Mine was more about … through the experience – even though this is a child, his look is determined. It’s the look of an adult.  The eyes are purple because it’s just that royalty and that gleam in his eyes to keep achieving.”

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In keeping with the theme of youth, Miami-based Diana Contreras’ work prominently displayed young Black girls.

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Printmaker Jamaal Barber explained he created his work based on inspiration from Black liberation. He aims “to give messages through my art and not just random stuff but to celebrate ourselves, to celebrate our people.”

Barber created the piece on Muhammad Ali to “mark the passing of a great man.”

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The work adjacent to it reads, “Liberation: Freedom Ain’t Free.”

“We all locked into this struggle,” Barber explained. “And the soldier with the sunflowers is symbolism for the war that we’re fighting and we’re trying to bring peace to everybody around – even though it’s a big-time struggle.”

Both pieces are woodcuts from a screen print. Barber explains there are not many Black printmakers around presently. He used a traditional technique by carving the wood, inking it and then sending it to the printer.

“It’s a special texture that you get out of it. I want people to notice it, pay attention to it, kind of bring back that tradition of African-Americans doing these prints. People like Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett – that’s the type of tradition I’m trying to keep alive.”

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Elsewhere at the exhibit, one guest takes part in the virtual reality headset.

barber-woman-haircut-minMeanwhile, an outdoor barbershop provided haircuts to guests.

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