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Pop culture and art. Today, those two things go perfectly together; however, not too long ago, it would have been weird to say those words in the same sentence. A perfect example is when rapper and producer Swizz Beatz tells the story of a time when many of his friends thought he was going crazy because he was hanging art in his home. Basquiat literally changed the game when it came to combining the two sub-cultures. Here's his story.

Born in the boroughs of Brooklyn to parents of Puerto Rican and Haitian backgrounds, Basquiat showed his artistic ability very early. With his mother's encouragement, he explored his love for art by touring New York City museum exhibitions. Basquiat faced many personal hardships through his early teen years, eventually leading to him running away from home and dropping out of high school.

The allure of Basquiat's art largely comes from its "unstudied" appearance. However, Basquiat skillfully combined his art with many disparate traditions, styles, and practices from his urban and African-Caribbean heritage. You see the influence his urban upbringing had on his art during his early training years. With inspiration from the New York City-led graffiti movement, Basquiat spray painted buildings across all of Lower Manhattan during the early 70s under the guise of SAMO, an acronym for "Same Old Shit." With its ultra-contemporary and anti-establishment, anti-religion, and anti-politics message, SAMO quickly became the face of the counter-culture movement.

During the mature period of Basquiat's career, you see the influence of his African-Caribbean heritage take hold. With the West African-led works of art, Basquiat made 1982 his golden year. He opened six solo shows across the world. He became the youngest artist to be included in Documenta, the international contemporary art show held in Germany every five years. By the mid-'80s, Basquiat became the leader in Neo-Expressionist and contemporary art.

With his meteoric rise, Basquiat was able to reinvent what American Minimalism and Conceptual art looked like. He magically weaved Pop, Punk, and African culture into his work, establishing a dialogue that has never been seen in art.

It’s safe to say that growing up, a lot of kids wanted to become an astronaut. The idea of flying off into space and walking on the moon seemed so attainable as children. Maybe that was due to their natural naiveté of how complex going into space is.

In the case of Mae Jemison, a Black woman born into the Jim Crow era, the odds did not seem to be in her favor. Yet, she found a way to make her child-hood dream come true. This is her story.

Mae Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama on October 17, 1956. At the age of three, Jemison moved to Chicago, which she claims is her true hometown. Jemison developed a unique interest in anthropology, archeology, evolution, and astronomy throughout her childhood. At 16, she entered Stanford University, receiving degrees in chemical engineering and African American studies. In 1977 Jemison attended Cornell University, where she pursued an interest in international medicine, volunteering in Thailand and Kenya. After graduating from medical school, Jemison became a medical officer in the Peace Corps and was involved in many research projects, including developing a hepatitis B vaccine.

After her stint in medicine, Jemison returned to the United States to follow a childhood dream that she never forgot about, becoming an astronaut. In 1986, she achieved that dream by applying to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and being 1 of 15 accepted out of an applicant pool of 2,000. Two years later, she completed her training with NASA as a mission specialist and became an astronaut office representative with the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This role required her to process space shuttles for launching and verify all shuttle software. In 1992 Jamison got her shot to travel to space on a week-long mission on the shuttle Endeavour, where she focused on conducting experiments on the weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew. At the time, she was the only African-American woman astronaut.

Far too often, the everyday grind of life detracts us from achieving many of the goals we set for ourselves. Mae Jemison is a perfect example of someone who never forgot about her dreams and, by achieving them, paved the way for so many people to follow in her footsteps.

Updated: May 22

Imagine a time when bike racing was considered one of the top sports in the world. Now imagine a time when you were the only Black man competing in that sport only 30 years after the abolishment of slavery. That was the reality for Major Taylor.

Marshall “Major” Taylor was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 26, 1878. His father, a Civil War veteran, and farmer, worked as a carriage driver for a wealthy white family. Through his father’s work, Major built a very close relationship with his employer, which eventually led him to move in with the family. Considered to be part of the family, one of their gifts to him was a bike, which he immediately took to. He soon taught himself complex bike tricks he showed his friends and anyone willing to watch. A local bike shop owner was one of the people in the crowd and eventually hired him to do his tricks outside the shop to attract more customers. While doing this, he would wear a military uniform, which earned him the nickname “Major” from the shop’s customers.

In his early teens, Taylor entered his first bike race, a 10-mile event he easily won. By the time he was 18, Taylor had moved to Massachusetts and started his professional career. Major raced in the grueling six-day ride at Madison Square Garden for his first competition, including 17,000 laps around a track and over 1,700 miles. Taylor finished 8th when many believed he wouldn’t make it past the first day. After the success of that race, he didn’t look back. By 1898, Taylor had captured seven world records and was named national and international champion a year later. This made him just the second black world champion athlete in any sport.

Even through all of his success, Taylor had constantly fended off racial insults and attacks from other cyclists and fans. He was banned from racing in the South, and during races was often hassled and bumped and even had crowds throw things at him while he was racing. Through all of this, Major Taylor persevered and became a pioneer and symbol of hope for black athletes worldwide.

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