June 3, 2020
These deeply troubling and indeed shocking and frightening times leave many of us wondering: how did we go so wrong and what can we do to make these unjust, unkind, and horrible truths come right? To see fellow human beings murdered for the color of their skin, to see others trampled in the streets as they gather in outrage—we can only wish these images had no part in our daily life. But the hard truth they represent is common, all too common.
Yes, many of us will want to and must add our voices to the public outcry now ringing out across the nation and around the world. Others will help out at shelters and food banks and local action committees. And still others will call and write to our elected officials to express outrage. These and so many other right actions are rightly called for when the fundamental principles of freedom, the very foundations of democracy, tremble beneath our feet.
We want and demand immediate remedies, and justice for all. And I do not doubt that much of what is happening today, in our city streets and through the various social media networks—the public spaces where “we the people” go to reclaim our inalienable right to freedom as the essence of human existence and the essential human cause—will result in changes for the common good. The outcry that is sweeping across America today, and will undoubtedly continue to spread throughout the world in the days ahead, will be heard.
Even so, I think David Driskell would remind us that what we are doing and what we have been doing as an ever-becoming community of artist-philosophers has never been more plainly imperative. And he would assure us, as he so often did, that we are being heard. At bottom, our mission is to change the way human beings think, to change the way we see the world and the way we see one another. That change—the change we are working toward as a shared communal aspiration—is the vision of the future that David Driskell so generously shared with us. It is in fact his legacy.
David’s Behold thy Son (1956) is counted among the most treasured works in The National Museum of African American History and Culture. To me this painting is a stark and painful reminder that the voice of the artist-philosopher, the voice of the future, must be heard.
Please stay safe and be well,
George Smith, PhD
Founder and President
Edgar E. Coons Jr., Professor of New Philosophy
Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts