By Diana Morose
This Black History Month, take the time to recognize notable Black figures within the arts. When we think of distinguished Black artists, we usually think of musicians like Michael Jackson and Beyonce, or writers like Langston Hughes and Octavia E. Butler. It is a wonderful time to highlight some of the lesser-known and under-appreciated Black artists working on their craft today and making their mark in the arts.
Kelela Mizanekristos, professionally known as Kelela, is an American singer. She stylizes contemporary R&B with electronic dance music. She first stepped onto the scene with the release of her mixtape, “Cut 4 Me,” and proceeded to gain more recognition in 2015 with her EP, “Hallucinogen,” which chronicled the phases of a relationship in reverse order. Kelela released a new album titled, “Raven,” on Feb. 10, the first in almost six years.
J. D. Dillard
J. D. Dillard is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is best known for his films “Sweetheart” (2019), “Sleight” (2016) and most recently “Devotion” (2022). He was nominated at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Awards in the category Best of Next. His name at one point was even attached to a potential “Star Wars” project. He also has a few television credits, working on the anthology “The Twilight Zone” based on the 1959 series. Dillard has been steadily making a name for himself in the film industry in recent years.
LaToya Watkins is an American author that has already made a few waves in a short amount of time. Her 2022 debut novel, “Perish,” about a Black Texan family that explores the effects of inherited trauma and intergenerational violence was memorably well-received. She is already working on releasing “Holler, Child,” a collection of short stories in the second half of this year. Watkins’ writing has featured in publications such as The Kenyon Review, The Sun, and A Public Space who named her one of the 2018 Emerging Writers Fellows).
Tyler Mitchell is an American artist, photographer, and filmmaker who gained recognition after photographing Beyoncé for the cover of Vogue, a historical shoot by Mitchell as he became the first Black photographer to shoot a cover for the American edition. His work is inspired by his suburban Georgian upbringing and characterized by promoting empowerment and centering Black beauty.
Neo Jessica Joshua
NAO, Neo Jessica Joshua, is an English singer-songwriter. Her musical sound throughout the years can be described as an innovative mix of soulful funk and alternative R&B combined with electronic dance music. She founded her own record label, Little Tokyo Recordings, and has previously received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Progressive R&B Album with her second studio album, "Saturn." Some of her most popular songs are “Drive and Disconnect,” “Bad Blood,” and “Another Lifetime.”
Every year brings new, talented individuals in the arts with unique ideas and personalities carving out a place for themselves and potentially inspiring other people through their work. Whether or not you recognized some of these names, these are only just a few of the many talented Black individuals making a name for themselves in the past decade.