On Saturday, December 7th, at the Queen Memorial Church of God in Christ, in Oakland, California, grassroot activists, and others, will join forces in a joint fundraiser for two premier newspapers who are reporting from behind the prison wall, the California Prison Focus, and San Francisco Bay View. Proceeds for the fundraiser will be raised through a silent Prisoner Art auction.
Why should this matter to the Black middle class, or anybody who is aspiring to be middle or upper middle class, or have young children, and are looking for plausible means to fund their college education? Because art is apart of a class of instruments known as assets. This class consist of real-estate, stocks, bonds, rare coins, stamps, and others. The whole theory of the case, is to buy low and sell high. The buy and flip phenomenon of the past 30 years in real estate and day-trading, which created such online firms as ETrade, is not classical investment strategy. Classic investment strategy is to buy and hold. Any professional stockbroker will argue during a stock downturn, it is far better then a savings account, or putting your money under a mattress; that in the long-term, stocks increase in value. While historical averages do bear this out, we have come now to learn that managed stock picking accounts by Wall Street firms do not out perform indexed accounts. This fact is especially a bright spot for middle class Americans. It means a more democratized cache of stocks, being an index, can be bought into without the fees associated with a managed account. And whether one wants to accept it or not, the cultural phenomenon known as Hip Hop, is on the cusp of providing phenomenal investment returns.
What Is Hip Hop?
For the uninitiated, Hip Hop has been determined to have five elements. These elements are, MCing (oral), turntablism or DJing (aural), b-boying (physical), graffiti (visual), and knowledge. The founder of the Graffiti movement in America was a Black youth by the name of Daryl “Cornbread” McCray. Cornbread learned about Graffiti, honed his Graffiti skills, and acquired his Graffiti name, while serving time in a Pennsylvania juvenile prison. The best selling artist in the Contemporary Art Market is an African American who comes from the Graffiti Art world, Jean-Michel Basquiat. A Basquiat’s painting bought in 1984 for $20,900, sold in 2017 for 110.5-million. It increased in value by a multiple of over 5,000%. In the past 20 years, his drawings have a return index of +2,000%. In 2017, 81-year-old Agnes Gund, an American philanthropist, and arts patron, sold her 1962 Roy Lichtenstein’s, Masterpiece, for $150 million. The sale placed it among the top 15 works ever sold. $100,000,000 of the proceeds went to start the Art for Justice Fund, a five-year initiative to reform the criminal justice system through art. The fund is being further funded by other wealthy art patrons inspired by Gund’s request to follow in her footsteps. I have watched this fund go from nothing, to having a full panoply of influential Black support, like Ava DuVernay, and Michelle Alexander, just to name a few. In 2019, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers owner, Michael Rubin; NFL, New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft; Hip-Hop Royalty, Jay-Z; and South Philadelphia Rapper, Meek Mills, created the $50,000,000 fund, Reform Alliance, another private sector fund to influence criminal justice. In February of 2016, Scott Budnick, the Executive Producer of The Hangover film franchise, and founder of The Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), which includes on its Board, film actor, and former prisoner, Robert Downey Jr., wrote in an ARC newsletter that was distributed to prisoners, the following:
Part II Raising Awareness Through ART
Additionally, our team at ARC has been looking for ways to bring new supporters into this movement, to help us find re-entry programs, housing, mentoring, job training and support for people coming home. Having seen the absolutely incredible artist Behind the Walls, we are proposing doing a huge and high-profile art auction this fall to raise funds and awareness for this movement. This will not be your traditional art auction, this would be at a major museum, with celebrity art auctioneers, and the ability to raise tremendous awareness, bring in massive press, and a considerable amount of funding, all to benefit a nonprofit organization and also the artist inside (50/50). We have many board members with powerful connections in the art world, and believe art from inside could sell for 5x or 10x what it traditionally would get.
Eventually, this would only turn out to be aspirational; however, he did plan for it to be big. Including, representing a skewing of the Prisoner Art Market as a result of him and his friends bidding on these works. This was before Kim Kardashian-West’s public involvement in criminal justice reform. What most middle class Black Americans are clueless about, are the influential Blacks who made their fortune in Hip Hop, or grew up on Hip Hop, are right there in some capacity, with the Titans of the Tech industry, and other influential, wealthy Whites, who want to be involved in the reformation of the criminal justice system. It is not a far stretch to say, we are witnessing the abolition of the slavery movement, 2.0. Especially, when you consider, more African Americans are in prison or jails than ever were in slavery.
I wrote this piece, because I am one of those incarcerated African Americans who happens to be both an activist and artist, and who has been demanding from those who believe in the power of art to effect both internal and cultural change to pay us. Prison art is a primary method of raising funds for legislative reform, prison reentry programs, and to support families with a loved one behind bars. Yet the prisoner is on their own when it comes to acquiring supplies for these endeavors. They receive no monies and very little recognition for their yeoman’s work. Rewarding this type of behavior incentivize other prisoners to model this behavior. From my experience, when asking prisoners to participate in art, or to contribute works for fundraisers, they aren’t interested. With the recent release of Min. King William, aka Pyeface, The George Jackson of Rap, this story is going to get told. Since his release, from doing six years in the Feds, and 18 years in California, Pyeface has been quite active in dealing with the issues for those he just left behind in prison, and the issues facing the world he has been welcomed back into. He has been the brainchild of several fundraisers since his release that include gentrification and the prisoner press. For years, he watched the “Prisoner’s Voice” be exploited. Incarcerated men and women who lend their drawings and writings for the cause to end mass incarceration, or some other cause, without compensation. The fundraiser, Artivists In Action & Solidarity, will be raising money through a silent Prisoner Art auction, whereby 40% of sales will return back to the prisoner. Pyeface’s return to society, brings a very powerful voice to the table, not paralleled in years. When President Obama ran for presidency in 2008, he was not initially the candidate of the Black democratic establishment or Black democratic rank and file. It wasn’t until he won the Iowa Caucus that Blacks felt they had the luxury to vote for him. It was seen as a signal from White America that they could pin their hopes on him. I write this article because I want Black America to understand, I am pulling your coattails to an opportunity to invest in you and yours. It is without a doubt, that mass incarceration affects Blacks more than any other racial classification. Blacks may have been totally clueless, as a people, that their people started one of the largest art movements in the history of the world, and that one of their own, dominates the current Contemporary Art Market. I’ve laid out a strong foundation, or rather made a case, that wealthy white Americans will soon transfer their money away from institutionalizing Prison Art, to making direct contribution to the artist themselves. If my fellow, financially minded African Americans were to purchase art from one of these Prisoner Artists, prior to celebrities getting into the Prisoner Art market, you will see a return on your money. It is only a matter of time, before celebrities and other influential non-people of color get involved in the Prison Art Market. African Americans, and all Americans, who come from where I come from, lower, middle, and upper-class, this is an opportunity for you to do what the big boys do, having artwork as a part of an investment portfolio.
For more reads:
Agnes Gund, Prison Art’s $100,000,000 Patron | darealprisonart https://darealprisonart.wordpress.com/2019/11/11/a…
Jay-Z, Meek Mill Launch Prison Reform Alliance, Pledge $50M https://www.vulture.com/amp/2019/01/jay-z-meek-mill-launch-prison-reform-alliance-pledge-usd50m.html
ARTIVISTS IN ACTION & SOLIDARITY
(Prison Art Auction for the National Prisoner Press)
Saturday, December 9th, 4-7 p.m.
Queen Memorial Church of God in Christ
1324 E. 24th St.
Oakland, CA 94606
Or donate online:
California Prison Focus http://newest.prisons.org/donate
San Francisco Bay View https://sfbayview.com/donate/
[Donald “C-Note” Hooker is a native angeleno. He is a poet, playwright, performing artist, award winning visual artist, and the King of Prison Hip Hop. His works have either been exhibited, recited, performed, or sold, from Alcatraz to Berlin. In 2017, Google Search listed him first in their search results, as both America’s, and the world’s most prolific Prisoner-Artist.]
On Saturday, December 7th, in Oakland, California (4 -7 p.m.), grassroot activists, in conjunction with artists, including a community of artists who cannot be present, Prisoner Artist, will come together to discuss and raise funds for two print newspapers involved in the prisoner press, the San Francisco Bay View, and the California Prison Focus. One of the means for raising funds will be making publicly available an opportunity to buy original Prison Art. One of the artist who has made a contribution is the South Central Los Angeles, Compton raised, Prisoner Artist, Joedee.
For the uninitiated, 20th century Black Los Angeles is in effect a Southern city. The Second Migration saw a mass exodus from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas, of Blacks into Los Angeles. Especially as Americans took on a two front war in World War II, one in the Atlantic against the Germans, the other in the Pacific against the Japanese. But the Southern Blacks who moved to Los Angeles went from Jim Crow overt, to Jim Crow covert. They were called Racial Covenants, and deemed progressive at the time. The alternative being race riots. But these weren’t riots, but white mobs attacking Black families through bombings, firing into, and burning crosses on the lawns of Black owned homes. Racial Covenants restricted Blacks into a particular area of Los Angeles. South Central Los Angeles was the only area Blacks could purchase property in Los Angeles prior to 1948. Bisecting the boundary of South Central Los Angeles, was Central Avenue, known as Harlem Renaissance West. Joedee grew up around 41st and Central Avenue, and was living in the area during the 4-Hour gun battle between the LAPD and the Geronimo Pratt lead Black Panthers at the Los Angeles Black Panthers Headquarters. While Joedee’s father was a Black Panther, Joedee latched onto the emerging neighborhood click known as the Baby Avenue Cribs, later to be known as the Crips. When Joedee and his family moved to Compton, he brought with him his South Central Los Angeles Baby Avenue Crib mentality, and was instrumental in the Crips foundation in Compton. Joedee’s lifestyle choices did not go unnoticed by his young nephew, a one Eric Wright, later to become known as Eazy-E. In the 80s, when America became a cocaine obsessed culture; in TV, with Miami Vice; in film, Scarface; in music, White Lies (Don’t Do It), by Grandmaster Melle Mel; it produced a counterculture, or backlash. First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No,” Crime Central Act of 1984, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and 1988, which made mere possession of crack cocaine the only drug a mandatory minimum penalty for a first-time offense of simple possession.
Bruce Lee with Muhammad Ali
In the late 80s, Joedee was brought up on federal charges for being a felon in possession of a firearm. This kind of charge is normally designated for the State courts, but these federal charges were a part of a nationwide gang sweep by the U.S. Attorney General as a part of the 1980s’ version of the War on Drugs. Joedee was federally convicted of being in possession of a firearm that was bought in Compton, but because the weapon was manufactured in Florida, he was guilty of crossing state lines with a firearm. Most of the other defendants nationwide were accepting plea bargains of 15-years. Joedee went to trial and received a 10-year sentence. He only served four before his case was overturned on appeal.
In the Belly of the Beast
When the biopic Straight Outta Compton was released, Joedee was frequently asked by the Compton Street, why wasn’t he in the movie? Other things about the movie began to disturb him, and began to ask MC Ren and Lil Eazy-E, who also weren’t in the movie, how did they feel about it?
Da Pantherlettes: Kathleen Cleaver, Assata Shakur, Elaine (Alatoe) Brown, Angela Davis, and Queen Califia,
Around this same time period, he would become a victim to a snatch and grab. His briefcase was stolen from him by a drug addicted homegirl, and her drug addicted boyfriend. A briefcase containing original works of art, and the cellphone recording of an assault by the police on a minor. When he was able to prevent the female assailant from escaping into the getaway car, the getaway car came back with the police. He was found guilty of assault and given a lengthy life sentence under California’s Three Strikes law.
The Thrice Amigos: Cesar Chavez, Emiliano Zapata Salazar, and Dennis Banks
To the prison administration, Joedee is not viewed as being apart of the first founding generation of Crips in Los Angeles, or instrumental of its foothold in Compton. For his part, Joedee doesn’t like gang banging. He he doesn’t like drug use, and he most certainly does not like the system that has brought about these plagues to his community. When he speaks through his art, prison officials don’t see an artist paying homage to peacemakers, like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, or Nelson Mandela. Nor do they see in his works, distinguished African Americans, such as Educator, Mary McLeod Bethune; Philosopher, Cornel West; Orator, Frederick Douglass; Entrepreneur, Danny Blackwell; Singer, Etta James, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Together We Stand, Divided We Fall
Prison officials see this Prisoner Artist as a Black Panther, and even in their paperwork of officialdom, as a member of the Soledad Six.
To this day, America is still seen as a revolutionary country. From George Washington to Harriet Tubman, and best exemplified in Muhammad Ali, Americans who have exuded the revolutionary spirit have all had public crucifixions before becoming beloved. Joedee’s work exudes Humanity’s revolutionaries. Those who at onetime were deemed Public Enemy #1 before receiving public accolades as an outstanding human being.
The woman in this work, “Serenade of the Black Panther,” was inspired by an image the artist saw in the “San Francisco Bay View.”
Or donate online:
[Editor’s Note]: If interested in reaching out to this artist, here is his California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation information:
P.O. Box 4490
Lancaster, California 93539