Photographer Kwame Brathwaite, who helped popularize the “Black is Beautiful” movement of the 1960s, has died. From Nelson Mandela to Muhammad Ali and the so-called Grandassa Models, Brathwaite’s work embraced Black power and beauty. He chronicled events such as The Motown Revue at the Apollo in 1963, The Jackson 5’s first trip to Africa in 1974, and the legendary Foreman-Ali fight, The Rumble in the Jungle.
Brathwaite’s death was announced by his son on Instagram.
“I am deeply saddened to share that my Baba, the patriarch of our family, our rock and my hero, has transitioned. Thank you for your love and support during this difficult time,” writes Kwame S. Brathwaite, who maintains his father’s archive.
In recent years, Brathwaite’s work has been the subject of exhibitions, books and even a fashion line created by Rihanna.
Inspired by Jamaican-born activist Marcus Garvey, Brathwaite was deeply involved in Black culture and activism beginning in the 1950s – he and his brother Elombe Brath helped organize concerts at clubs in the Bronx and Harlem. Kwame photographed them. They helped create AJASS, the African Jazz Art Society & Studio.
Born Ronald Brathwaite in Harlem in 1938, his parents were from Barbados. The family moved to the Bronx when he was five. His father was a tailor who owned dry cleaning businesses. His mother sold homemade Caribbean dishes from their home.
Grandassa Models celebrated natural beauty
Brathwaite’s series of photographs of Grandassaland Models was inspired by the term Grandassa, coined by Carlos Cooks, founder of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement. The idea was to inspire Black women to embrace their African heritage rather than try to emulate white women by straightening their hair.
“We said, ‘We’ve got to do something to make the women feel proud of their hair, proud of their blackness,'” Brathwaite told The New Yorker.
Grandassa Models put on popular fashion shows called “Naturally.”
Reflecting on that time, Braithwaite told Vogue, “I remember every second of it. There was so much joy in making those shows. It was all about cooperation and working together.” He continued, “My goal was always to capture the beauty of black women, to restore black pride and the spirit of black women.”
Among the recent exhibitions of Brathwaite’s work, The New-York Historical Society presented Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite.
Michael Famighetti, who edited Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful, tells NPR in an email, “It is inspiring how Brathwaite used his photography to propel the Black Is Beautiful message through a savvy combination of art, fashion, music, and community activism.” Famighetti says Brathwaite, “was a visionary, and it’s been amazing to see his work from the 1960s come back into view, resonate with a younger group of photographers grappling with issues of representation, capture the popular imagination, and even influence a contemporary cultural giant like Rihanna.”
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Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona
Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona and music although she has also made songs with themes supporting LGBTQ rights, female empowerment, and autism awareness.
Acclaimed GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello makes her Blue Note Records debut with the June 16 release of The Omnichord Real Book, a visionary
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The Omnichord Real Book is introduced today by the expansive lead single “Virgo,” the mind-altering 8-minute centerpiece of the album which features Meshell on vocals, key bass, and keyboards, Younger on harp, Rodriguez on Farfisa organ, Chris Bruce on guitar, Jebin Bruni on keyboards, drums by Abe Rounds, Deantoni Parks, and Andrya Ambro, and additional vocals by Kenita Miller and Marsha DeBoe. The Omnichord Real Book is available for pre-order now on Blue Note Store exclusive color vinyl, black vinyl, CD, and digital.
“It’s a little bit of all of me, my travels, my life,” says Meshell. “My first record I made at 22, and it’s over 30 years from then, so I have a lot of stored information to share.” Reflecting on the impact that the forced stillness of the pandemic lockdown had on her, she says “I must admit it was a beautiful time for me. I got to really sit and reacquaint myself with music. Music is a gift.”
“This album is about the way we see old things in new ways,” Meshell explains. “Everything moved so quickly when my parents died. Changed my view of everything and myself in the blink of an eye. As I sifted through the remains of their life together, I found my first Real Book, the one my father gave me. I took their records, the ones I grew up hearing, learning, remembering. My mother gifted me with her ache, I carry the melancholy that defined her experience and, in turn, my experience of this thing called life calls me to disappear into my imagination and to hear the music.”
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