This painting pays homage to the poem "I Am Somebody," written by an Atlanta-based Baptist pastor and civil rights activist named Reverend William Holmes Borders, Sr. The poem states, "I am Somebody! I am Somebody! I may be poor, But I am Somebody. I may be young, But I am Somebody. I may be on welfare, But I am Somebody. I may be small, But I am Somebody. I may have made mistakes, But I am Somebody. My clothes are different, My face is different, My hair is different, But I am Somebody. I am Black, Brown, or White. I speak a different language But I must be respected, protected, never rejected. I am God's child!" Two years after Williams painted this canvas, the Reverend Jesse Jackson recited "I Am Somebody" on an episode of Sesame Street in front of a multi-racial group of children, who together repeatedly recited the chorus of "I Am Somebody."
Artist Biography: Gerald Williams is an American painter whose work explores culture, place and identity from a global perspective. Williams is a co-founder of AFRICOBRA, an artist collective formed on the south side of Chicago in 1967, which became the definitive visual expression of the Black Arts Movement. Over time, his work has evolved into a polyrythmic representation of life at the intersection of figuration and abstraction, defined by what he calls “mimesis at midpoint.”
Williams distills the visual language of time, place, culture and identity in order to express the essence of reality in an aesthetically contemplative way. While a member of AFRICOBRA, he engaged in ongoing conversations with the group about how best to express their environment, their culture, and their moment in history. Those conversations resulted in the creation of iconic representations of contemporary Black culture. When Williams later traveled and worked in Africa, he continued that practice of aesthetic distillation while opening himself up to new techniques, materials and processes. The quiet nights in Nairobi; the rich colors of African clothing and architecture; the dynamic rhythms of life in the country and the city: all of these things transformed his aesthetic approach, and set him on a new path toward the polyrythmic aesthetic he maintains today, which reflects his global vision of the human condition.
The artist's studio, Chicago, IL, USA Kavi Gupta gallery, Chicago, IL, USA
AFRICOBRA 50, 2018, Kavi Gupta gallery, Chicago, IL, USA Africobra: Messages to the People, 2018, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL, USA Africobra: Nation Time, 2019, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy