Tag Public Enemy

Salaam Malcolm: 50th Anniversary 1965-2015

1990. ‘Malcolm X Fever’ is at fever pitch.

There is a plethora of Malcolm X iconography inspired primarily through the music of legendary, afrocentric and conscious rap/hip hop groups such as, Public Enemy and the X-Clan who had just dropped their debut album, ‘To the East Blackwards’; the films and merchandising of Spike Lee through his newly opened store in Brooklyn, Spike’s Joint; and the bold, fresh and funky fashion of Cross Colours.

These were ‘X-citing’ times. But as with any popular cultural movement, it can reach its point of overload and for many people, like myself who were into Malcolm-X for more historical and political reasons, the seeming reduction of him to that of purely a fashion icon was a bridge too far.

That point of overload was to literally hit home to me, in my locale of East Sheen in south-west London, when suddenly I’d see all these white middle and upper class kids in the local high street, rocking their Malcolm X and Public Enemy t-shirts.

In hindsight, I wish I could maybe have viewed it less cynically and accepted it for what it was, which whatever the reasons, was a mainstream, multi-cultural adoption of Malcolm X, which would have been utterly inconceivable in his lifetime.

Instead, to be honest, I was more consumed with mixed feelings of cultural appropriation and a desire to push a more meaningful adoption of Malcolm X, his teachings, his politics and his philosophies.

However, these feelings inspired me to design one of my first ever t-shirt designs, which I created to recognise the 25th anniversary of Malcolm’s death in 1965.

Malcolm RIP XXV © Jon Daniel

I deliberately took a less populist approach, using his muslim name of ‘El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz’. And a typographic rather than image-led visual treatment, using an excerpt from the eulogy read at Malcolm’s funeral by the Black actor and civil rights activist, Ossie Davis.

The design, which I initially sold on the street at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1990, and then afterwards at a few select stores around London, also proved to be a powerful creative catalyst.

It forged within me a new mindset to use design and creativity as a tool to promote the rich historical legacy of Black heroes and heroines from the African diaspora, and to take a progressive and pro-active stance to issues that affected the Black community.

As-Salaam-Alaikum.

 

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Stamps from the African Diaspora

Creative Review | Monograph | October 2011

In this digital age, where email has now usurped postal mail as the global communication of choice, stamps remain a small yet powerful canvas on which to stimulate cultural interest and provoke debate.

The following collection was borne out of a campaign I initiated in the early 1990’s.

Inspired by the lyrics of Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ (‘cause I’m Black and I’m proud, I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped, Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps’) I realised that no Black historical and cultural figures had been represented on British stamps.

To address this, I created a unique series of stamp designs highlighting ‘Black Contribution to Britain’.

Unfortunately, although I campaigned for many years, garnering support from several MP’s, The Prince of Wales, English Heritage, and The Commission for Racial Equality amongst many others, my stamp designs were never to see the light of day.

However, as part of the campaign to persuade Royal Mail to embrace my initiative, and armed with expert historical guidance from Dr. Patrick Ismond and The Black Cultural Archives, I researched and collected stamps from around the world. These featured leading figures from the African Diaspora who had been celebrated by other countries.

Thanks to Creative Review, I am able to share a small selection of this international stamp collection with Creative Review subscribers via the publication, Monograph.

This collection will also form part of a wider exhibition, ‘Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora’ on Facebook and at the flagship London store of the world’s greatest stamp emporium Stanley Gibbons.

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