I HAVE WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED a poem about Jean-Michel Basquiat. At first being aware of Basquiat, I was intrigued by the novelty of yet another first Black so-and-so but that wore off quickly. No poem there. At first I thought that Basquiat was one of those middle class Black dudes that wanted to be an artist just like everybody else and to purposely live apart from the Black “huddled masses” (and their “unreasonable anger”)—and to indignantly demand his right to be an “artist” as good as any “white” artist. Oh yeah: I also saw that movie about him with David Bowie in it.

Then I read bell hooks, her essay on Basquiat in Art on My Mind. I was then led to the excellent book Jean-Michel Basquiat an effort led by Richard Marshall. It was these books on Basquiat that really got me interested in him (especially bell hooks). To be blunt: when Black people started writing about this Black artist, an engaging character emerged. Basquiat suddenly became the king/hero who tried to shoot up the entire Black experience with oil paint sticks and died of an overdose. He became more than just a blond-afro backup dancer for Madonna who scribbled cartoon drawings of African suffering.

Read the poem if you care. It is the best poem on Basquiat that will ever be written. I know I am not humble but trust me: it is.

WARNING: This presentation does not save idiots. This presentation is not for Classics majors who failed to understand that they were studying one culture—not a standard by which all mankind is judged. This presentation will be considered obscene by Hippie Liberals who want to help the less fortunate—as long as the less fortunate remain the less fortunate.

This presentation is not sponsored by AT&T, the National Committee of the Whitney Museum and Madonna. But without their efforts this poem would not be possible.


Written, Illustrated and Designed by . . . . . . . Bryan Wilhite