I can’t say I’ve always been God-directed, but I think I didn’t realize that God was directed me until I realized I was God’s property. I grew into the knowledge of being God-directed as a choirboy at St. Cyprian’s where came into the wonder of the power of the glory of God.
I’ve always heard God’s voice and been grateful He speaks to me in language, and voice l understand. I believe God comes to us where we are rather than us to trying to get to him. He makes sure the information we need to have is at a level that we can understand.
Since I was that child at St. Cyprian’s, I’ve allowed the voice of God to guide my life as I later would teach my children to do. But it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood what it meant to be God’s property and destined to do His work and will.
My Summer of 1967 Epiphany
I’m sure some of that understanding came early during the period of history now called “The Long Hot Summer of 1967” when I witnessed Boston police brutalizing pregnant welfare rights protestors in the Grove Hall area of my city.
I realized then my art gift was owned by God and I had to do work that reflected the teachings of Christ that I learned as a child. My work needed to be an act of social justice; it had to address oppression, injustice, impoverishment, abuse and other issues that Jesus addressed when He walked this earth in a man’s body while fully God.
But, that doesn’t mean it was easy because being a social and political activist of any type is not, especially when you create images and content that tell truth to power. Life is a lot easier, it seems, for those who stay quiet and don’t challenge oppressors intent on maintaining their control. Those people, nearly always white, want to maintain their status quo at any cost.
That means even at the cost of the lives of those who do have the courage to contest that right to often unearned power and privilege. There were times when I questioned why certain things happened in my life and the world; why I could make the kind of art that was “acceptable” and that sold well.
But God told me I was on a need to know basis; I just needed to obey Him and follow His lead because He knew where He was taking me and He knew why I had to do the work I was called to do. The first time I heard Him say that I was stunned, but I also was convinced at that moment that I was entirely God’s.
As I grew older, I recognized that everything is temporary; it’s all ephemeral. God showed me I and everything around me is dust. We’re here today an gone like grass tomorrow, so there is no time to lose fulfilling your purpose. All I had to do is think about all those who seemed to be gone long before their time and those who were long gone before I came along in time.
My Concept of Christ Evolved As I Did
In my early years, I had problems seeing the white supremacist’s version of Christ where He had got recreated in the white man’s image, and I rejected Christ as a result. Then, I came across black scholars in my early 20s during the early days of the Black Power Movement who talked about a black Jesus and saw images by other artists depicting Him as black. I began to get some truths about where he was from in the world and saw they were inconsistent with what I’d got taught in school.
At that point, I realized Jesus had to be black but wouldn’t be able to articulate that knowledge in images until I was in my late 20’s. Fortunately, by late twenties when I drew “Our black Christ,” the image to the left, I had studied archeology and world history in college.
During my art studies, I began to see ancient images from the part of the world where Christ lived that were inconsistent with revisionist history and that recreated Christ of the white supremacist. These were not white people with straight blond hair and cornflower blue eyes like the white man’s version of Christ is presented as being.
Even in the mid-1960s, the ancient images I saw of Egypt, where Jesus and His parents were sent to hide from a murderous Herod when he was a baby, did not include light brown or nearly white people like those we see most today are.
They were Africans during the time before the world had been “anglicized” by white imperialists raping black women, so they still were black with dark skin, dark eyes and coarse hair. That means Jesus and His parents could not have hidden in Egypt had they been white.
I also realized the corollaries between the way Christ lived and died on this earth and the way black men often did. I began to get an image of the real Christ, and that changed my life and my art.
My Life in God Today
Several years ago, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I’m thrilled with life and being alive. I’m still here to be useful, even if it’s to fight the battles we’ve already fought that we now have to fight again as the clock is turned back at a dizzying pace.
But, given the lies about Christ those now in power and those who put them there believe, it’s no surprise we’re still combating what God had me commit my life to fight oppression with my art.
As long a God gives me the strength, I’ll maintain my role in this war on injustice. It’s part of the evil Jesus fought and died on the cross to defeat. Thankfully, I know the end of the story–that we win.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see that victory manifest while the kingdom of darkness reigns on the earth, I wish to hear God say to me when I enter Heaven, “Well done good and faithful servant.” That’s more important to me than just comfort in my old age.
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(c) 2016-2018. Written by Dahna M. Chandler as told to her by Dana C. Chandler for The Living Legend Artist, LLC. The artist’s statements are entirely his own but may be edited for clarity. All rights reserved. The copyrights to all artwork displayed on this site, unless otherwise noted, belong to Dana C. Chandler, Jr. and those copyrights and each work owned by The Pan African Artist, LLC. All rights reserved and vigorously protected. Please carefully review our copyright and related disclaimers for further protection information.