Black creativity extends far beyond visual arts. Black artists have shaped the soundscape of America, generating influential, enduring genres such as jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, and hip-hop. These genres serve important cultural and political functions, communicating and preserving Black history, culture, and experiences. Black authors have used writing as a means of resistance and a voice for the marginalized. NJI pandas have shared just a few of the Black musicians and authors that inspire us daily. Learn more about the artists and designers we have amplified during Black History Month.
Renowned author and literary figure Colson Whitehead is a powerful voice in the ongoing conversation about race and inequality in America. His Pulitzer Prize-winning work explores the complexities of the Black experience with a unique blend of historical fiction and magical realism. “I first encountered him through his novel ‘The Underground Railroad,’ ” recounts Tracy Cooper, NJI Copy Editor. “Whitehead’s work has inspired many, including pushing me to challenge the status quo in my own writing.”
Entrepreneur, billionaire, and philanthropist Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is a dominant force in the music industry and one of the most accomplished entertainers in the world. The musical icon uses his platform to give back to his community through his philanthropic efforts, including providing scholarships through the Shawn Carter Foundation. “Jay-Z’s music describes his humble upbringing and the roadblocks he’s faced entering the music industry,” shares Zaid Abdullah, NJI Project Manager. “He’s taught me that your current circumstances don’t have to stay that way.”
German artist and rising star Zoe Wees is making waves in the music industry with her powerful vocals and emotional lyrics. In just a few years, her music has circulated the globe, garnering millions of streams and receiving critical acclaim. “Zoe’s powerful voice and lyrics resonate with my passion for mental health and elevating awareness and discussion through music,” says Tamrah Chalom, NJI Marketing and Communications Manager.
Combining her roots in Houston rap, gospel soul, and classical flute, Lizzo uplifts and empowers marginalized communities, particularly Black women. Despite the adversity she’s faced, the Grammy Award winner continues to promote self-love and social justice. “Her unapologetic confidence and body-positive encouragement is so inspiring and influential for young women, as so many struggle with body image,” says Lisa Filgas, NJI Senior Account Director.
Breaking the charts with her music, singer & producer Rihanna has blazed the path for so many women & people of color. She’s bagged multiple Grammys, launched a fashion and lingerie line made for all body types, and created one of the most inclusive beauty brands — Fenty Beauty — that caters to and works on all skin tones and shades. Throughout her career she has always shown solidarity with social causes & movements like BLM, LGBTQIA+ rights, the Sudanese Revolution, and more.
“The global music and fashion icon has made so many people feel seen. She’s inspired me to be comfortable in my own skin and never give up on my dreams,” shares Jamie White, NJI Project Manager.
Black writers and musicians have been at the forefront of shaping our culture and inspiring us for generations. Their works often delve into themes of identity, struggle, resilience, and empowerment to shed light on social and political issues. Next, we will be elevating trailblazers at the intersection of Black and LGBTQ+