Saturday, March 31, 2012

Are African American artists stereotyped as tragic?

I am always amazed at these characterizations of Philippa Schuyler and other African American artists who become large, well-known, acknowledged with mastery over their art, etc. They are always characterized in this way of 'tragedy'. Philippa had a pretty incredible life. Her death was a tragedy which many of us don't believe was an accident. She was an acknowledged, accomplished pianist, which was her passion and she achieved a status which few do even in the 30 plus years of her short life. Why does this negativity surround all African American artists? Why such characterizations and so consistent. I could do a language study on what is said about African American artists who are at the top of their fields and it will all read the same.

None of us has a trouble free existence. We all have problems and all of our lives could be called tragic simply because we are human and exist. Report on her accurately and without this drama. She was an infinitely interesting, imaginative, humane, beautiful person, who reached a height with her art that few of us can even dream of reaching. and she had a freedom to practice her art which few of us ever achieve. What a blessed life she lived. And what a gift she gave to us all. I knew Philippa growing up and this exaggeration of her circumstances is not true and biased writing.
A few days back I gave Bill Zick at AfriClassical the heads up on a 2009 Huffington Post piece on Philippa Schuyler following my own posts on her, Bill published the link and his post received the comment above directed at the Huffington Post article. Although the comment came from a commercial site it appears to have been posted by Marceline Donaldson of the Philippa Schuyler Committee. Whatever the source, the comment is thought provoking coming from a writer who seems to have known Philippa. Are African American artists unfairly stereotyped as tragic? Are portrayals of Rudolph Dunbar, Dean Dixon and Everett Lee here and elsewhere too negative?

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