Drawing While Black Revisited

Demystifying the process of drawing is important and beneficial because of several reasons beyond an exploration of the senses. One being is that it considers the audience to be more than just spectators and/or consumers of art, but it also invites people to be practitioners of art-making as well. A large number of people hold a lot of common misconceptions and/or insecurities/fears when it comes to the act of drawing. Such as, the common saying “I can’t even draw stick figures,” or thinking that photo-realistic representational drawings are the only goal drafts-people aspire toward, not to mention showing and/or performing in galleries. For instance, when the cartoonist, professor, and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Lynda Barry, was prompted on the radio show q by host Tom Power during a 2019 interview. Barry discussed problems surrounding the deification of creatives (q mark 14:00 - 17:15). She stated that turning creatives into gods/goddesses is one reason that leads many people to give up on practicing drawing (q mark 14:00 - 17:15). For example, she says that when she was a preteen, she overheard on the radio while riding in a car that if you don’t start playing the piano at about 4 years old, you're past your prime (q mark 14:00 - 17:15).

Barry’s explanation is meaningful to my practice because, I too, when viewing a master artist's work can be intimidated into thinking that if I don’t make work like Kara Walker or Toni Morrison, that in both my drawing/writing practices plus the final pieces (see. Figure 1) have little to no value. However, I have found that when entering these works through an understanding of the artist’s documentation of our processes and/or materials leading up to the final piece; provides clarity not only as a consumer of the work as a viewer, but these ways of knowing, also aides me the practitioner, with confidence when creating pieces such as the “Drawing While Black aka Black Boy Joy,” both in the performance itself, and the final renderings derived from the performance (William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible Art21 mark 34:48-35:25).


Figure 1 Moore, Maurice. “I Got Soul!”, Chalk on Blackboard, 2019.
Figure 1 Moore, Maurice. “I Got Soul!”, Chalk on Blackboard, 2019.

Understand, my goal here with this text and/or the performance, is not to get the audience to become professional artists, showing at art galleries. If that happens that would be great! However, the meaning of practitioner in this context involves the concept of practice as research. Meaning, a person is informed by actually practicing the techniques, theories, and hypotheses some arts scholars implore when creating their works. In short, just reading this paper, which is not meant to recreate the performance or make sense out of the final drawing (William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible Art21 mark 00:37-01:18). This paper is meant to provide more clarity in the case of what it feels/felt like to draw and/or write while being Black.

Here is where the documentation collected from the performance, and experimentation with the form of this text is keen. Documentation is more than just a description of what was carried with the piece. Documentation is a focusing on some of the specific doings, or feelings, and feltness when performing “Drawing While Black aka Black Boy Joy.” To reiterate, clarity of the artist process functions like a road map for both the creator of the work as well as the audience. Leading both parties to know what it feels/flet for me writing this text and performing the piece i.e. subverting the White gaze with Black aesthetical practices such as the Black Snap!, or reading and/or throwing shade (Marlon T. Riggs p.39, Livingston Paris is Burning). As you continue reading this text some of the lengths taken when subverting the White gaze/sight in both in the performance and text to get the Snap! should be apparent. In short, I’ve had to use some of those same practices here in this text with i.e. the strike throughs, breaking up the line(s), and my usage of Ebonics and AAVE to experiment with form in terms of the text, to sorta code switch and/or mesh the form of this essay out of the very White Standard English rules (Where are the Podcast Blaccents? mark 18:43 - 20:05, Assanta p.14). The purpose of me attempting to access a Black sight/gaze/breath/sound/skin/snap is so that I may more fully explore both the ugliness and beauty involved with the act of drawing/writing while Black (Hughes).


Part 1: Drawing While Black

White Eyes for sight/seeing/seen

White Ears for hearing/sound/vibration

White Noses to Smell/Breath                                                                                    I can’t breathe!

White Mouths/Wet/Spit/Dry/Buds Tongues to taste

White Skin/parts/limbs/flesh to Touch Feel/Felt.

What is Black sight?

Black sight is always having your worth measured by another’s gaze.

(see. W.E.B. Dubois p. 2 - 3)

Black sight is not being represented from birth.                                       Super Predator

Black sight means your presence casts no real lasting reflection in the world.


It’s only when a self-imposed blindness occurs, I start to become visible; not just to the world, but to myself.

Aliveness of Line (UM Stamps mark 44:36 - 45:06)

Some White folks have all 5 human senses and some of us niggasfagsdarkies don’t have any and/or possess full usage of these faculties. Regardless of what human senses niggas possess, the “Drawing While Black aka Black Boy Joy,” is concerned with how a BlacktyBlackBlack art object in its various iterations and/or processes for someone of the African and African American Diasporas aka an art nigga like me are effected and affected by the -isms. By -isms, I mean anti-Black racism, misogynoir, queer antagonism, Black Ablism etc…Moreover, how I code switch and mesh, cope, to navigate and do some of that magical Negro Bull shitting my way through this performance Snap!, and still continue to create this piece by tapping into Black aesthetics on my own terms.


With this piece I am interested in learning if there are more human senses that exist both inside and outside of White western culture. I am also interested in if Black peoples 5 human senses are different. Yes Karan, solely because we are black. Getting myself and the audience to consider with this work what it’s like to move through the world with black eyes/sight, black ears/hearing/sound, black mouths and noses for breathing, and black skin for feeling. And, while we're at it, what about colored people's time (CPT)? Can Black Time be considered sense?

My piece is drawing while being Black. Understand, that the only way I can see myself is to take away my White eyes. Because they lie to me. My Whiteeuro eyes Blood tell me that I don’t belong, and there is no beauty in blackness.

Black is Beautiful.

                                                                           But Blackness can

              also hold ugliness too.

(see. Langston Hughes)

What does anti-Blackness tell me bout sight?


Black Boy Joy:

Some thangs to reconsider.

First of all! Yes, I can say it, and no you can’t! Snap!


The form I am using in the text now as well as the text above about the “Drawing While Black aka Black Boy Joy,” performance is meant to function like Marlon T. Riggs’ “Snap!,” does in his text, "Black Macho Revisited: Reflections of a Snap! Queen," as shade and reading.

(see. dorian corey - Livingston Paris is Burning

Sup: To reiterate, I am not trying to recreate the “Drawing While Black aka Black Boy Joy,” performance through this critical essay, or any rendering channeling Black Aesthetics. However, what I do intend to expose through these different iterations of drawing while inhabiting a Black body are some of the negotiations and/or balancing it takes to draw in this radicalized queer/quare body (William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible Art21 mark 34:48-35:25, Johnson p.1-2). These elements must come through if one is to comprehend what it’s like to draw while Black. Therefore, being able to read you and/or a throwing of shade, must occur during my writing process now just as it does when I am blindfolded performing the piece. Because, I feel it’s more than a little shady to turn my back to you while performing this piece. Moreover, having the audacity to not look at your faces when I am performing seems like a read to me. Snap!


Part 2: Drawing While Black:

White Ears for hearing/sound/vibrations

What is Black sound?


Hard (ers)

Black sound is That devil's music.

Black sound is strange fruit still growing.

(see. Billie Holiday)

Black sounds are the police sirens.

Black sound is always worrying about making too much noise!

Black sound is the moan!

Aunt Hester's Screams

(Moten p. 2 -3)

Ahaaw, I love to love you, baby.

(see. Donna Summer)

Pain Pleasure

Black sound is the silence when it comes to speaking the name of Nina Pop, another black trans woman murdered.

Black sound is the silence of how us Black Queers are constantly left out of hxstory.

Black sound is being a troublemaker!

Heavy Metal!







Getting Happy

BeBob! Made so y’all couldn't keep up, as if you could! Snap!


When the music hits!

Hits my ears, it pours into my big black, blacklty, fat, body.

(see. CB4)

Suddenly there are beats, rhythms, harmonies, and Pynk emanating from within.

No, Blues here, baby! I ain't Bessy either! But I ya Gurl! And, no my skin doesn't glisten beautiful shades of blue in de moonlight! Snap!

Only Negrx Faggtrey here boo! Yes, we on dat Zora TEA tonight!

(see. Jenkins)

(see. Janelle Monae) (see. Marlon T. Riggs p.390) (see. Zora)

I move my hips. My thick thighs feel feminine, vulgar, nasty, sticky, explicit, x rated...

I don’t have rhythm! I can’t dance! So, I must not be Black. Right? I am supposed to be able to dance! But sometimes I get in sync with the song(s)/lines, and I am like them, The other Black people. My ancestors are resurrected. I am resurrected.


I move like them. Maybe it's in my bad blood; the way I move my hips like the lines I create.

How do I know how to move like this, creating these types of lines?

Maybe, I am really Black instead of nothing.

Phantom Limbs


Part 3: Drawing While Black

Some White people's taste and smell don’t have to be connected.

They are free to experience these sensations uninterrupted and without fear of death(s).

They/You have the freedom to do both at ease.



black mouths/tongues for taste, black noses for smelling

Black taste and smell are connected.

For this performance, these scenes are about breathing.

Black breathing is holding your breath.

Black breathing is Drowning


                             I can’t breathe!

Like, de ancestor who flew back home. Dark Continent Flying Africans

(see. Diouf p.54)

Maybe they grew gills. Maybe dey found Atlantis? When performing the piece. I always make a mask of flowers. The flowers represent dat feminine energy, dat sissy shit, dat punk shit, dat quare shit. Yassss Queen!

I often forget to cut out nose holes so I can breathe. I keep this practice in when doing the performance. I like the sensation of not being able to breath. Death Wish

No, I like the sensation of having or feeling like I have some control over my own Black breathLife. Just as I take my White eyes away to gain Black sight. I have to take my White breath away to feel my Black breath. I can feel my breath for once, and for once it is all mine! Snap!

I am the Blackest in these moments. Breathing the same complicated air my ancestors did when they were are still bein chased,

                In the Bowels of the ship,

                Or Seasoned,

                Made into Whipped Cream.


Part 4: Drawing While Black

White epidermis - used to feel/felt

White skin is the fair, the fairest of them all, snow, pure, clean, easy, smooth, light, goodness, genius, cis, beginning, healthy, alpha, wealth, academic, formal, privilege, civilized, invisible, centered, feather, visible, whatevah it wants to be, the default...

De complexion fo de protection.

(See. Paul Moony)

I mean, I could go on and on and on, and on, and on like Missy! Snap!

(See. Missy Elliot)


Black Skin/parts/limbs/flesh to Touch Feel/Felt

Black skin is weight. Cain


Cain Making Marks on paper. By the way, what’s up with all dis white paper?

Making Cain marks on paper. Now, I can make cain marks in the air.

Cain punishment?   "fugitive and wanderer"

Diaspora!  Well If dat ain’t a Nigga I don’t know what one is! Snap!

Black isn’t a fake tan Sweety

Nah, you can’t bottle dat shit up! Karen! Becky! Susan!, Tod!

Black skin isn’t a fetish!

Black skin is?

What does my skin feel like? What does it feel like when moving through the world(s)

Drawing with Black skin feels/felt like weight.

Drawing with Black skin feel/felt like trouble.

I can see what havin this Black does when I am not doin dis performance. No, not just with my White eyes. With my Black feel/felt sense.

Black skin is noticing that I am the only one in the room. However, with this performance being the only one in the room it’s on my terms! Snap!

Black skin is noticing in your eyes, how you won’t sit next to me on the bus!

Black skin is always fitting the description.

Black skin was being a child, but being perceived as an adult.

Black skin is being seen as only a TOP! Or some funkin big dicked mandingo!

Bottom Pride Bitches!!!!!!

Black skin is feeling you clutch your tacky ass bags on the elevator.

Black skin is a feeling. The feeling is you punching me in the gut.

Black feel/felt is you crossing the street when you see/saw/feel/felt me comin.

Black feel/felt is finally moving through a space without feeling the touch of your White gaze for once! Snap!


Part 4: Writing While Black

In conclusion, I am left with pondering a question. How does writing i.e. experimentation with the form in this text here, differ from the sensorial play that takes place in the “Drawing While Black aka Black Boy Joy,” piece? In other words, purposefully restricting my White sight to gain Black Sight in order to process/deflect the negative impact the -isms have on my art practice. In short, what I am interested in subverting with this text in terms of form; involves subverting the White gaze and/or White supremacist affects and effects the Ablest American Standard English rules involving grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and language. Moreover, how these standards/rules negatively impact African and African American Diasporic peoples expressions be it the written word, or spoken word, and/or through non-verbal physical gesture i.e the Snap!


Hold up, ho la, ho la, ho la!

I can show better than I can tell ya with just a description!

Don’t have to be blindfolded to write while Black.

Don’t have to manipulate my sight/breath/skin/sound/e to write while Black.

What I am doing is playing with language.

Is saying a big fuck you to grammar, spelling, and the so-called American standard english language.

                                          The White gaze

                                          White supremacy

                                          all feel like sirens. Rocks Crashing


Who’s standards?

Legible to who?  Who Karen?

AAVE, affords me the opportunity. To be a troublemaker-ing Nigga on my own terms.

Meshing my Southern Queer Black African and African American Diasporic tongues together and/or breakin dem apart for my pleasure not yours Karen! (Where are the Podcast Blaccents? mark 18:43 - 20:05). 3 Snaps!



1). During a lecture at UM Stamps, Barry references the Aliveness of Line that is lost in kids when they become self-conscious about not being able to render, realistically which is carried on into adulthood. She also addresses this phenomenon occurring after an artists formal training as well. Moreover, after this formal training takes place, She states that artists who draw are trying to chase/regain that aliveness of line. The spark. The live wire, energy, juice, in their practices is what many artists are trying to resurrect

(UM Stamps mark 44:36 - 45:06)

2). In William Kentridge’s, “William Kentridge Anything Is Possible,” documentary by Art21. He states that multiple iterations of an idea be it through a drawing, or a text, or opera, and/or a tapestry brings about clarity. Moreover, these disciplines don’t have to be hierarchical or turned into a pissing contest (my words) in order for people to be-come enlightened.

(William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible Art21 mark 34:48-35:25)

3). In Langston Hughes essay "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," the writer speaks on the ongoing negotiations and balancing colored artists are burdened with in choosing to identify or not be identified as a Black artist. I believe he is saying that anti-blackness, the politics respectability, and the White gaze are some of what hinders the Black artist from more freely expressing both the beauty and ugliness tied to being a Black creative in the early 20th century.

(Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” 1926)

4). I am not sure what Writing While Black means to me as an arts scholar/practitioner yet. Writing is still new to me, so chill. I’m talmbout a performative playing with nonline-ar form type of writing here. Not the standard English. To be continued...I will say that, People refusing to accept the way we speak and/or convey our (dis)pleasure with you, be it through the written word, or scholarly texts, raps, or our mannerisms, or dance(s), and non-verbal i.e. eye rolling lip popping you name it, it’s so late. Call it Black Speech, AAVE, Ebonics or whatevah. Understand that these expressions are an ever changing mode of the Black experience across the Diaspora. It’s a language honey! Just take the L! It’s the very language that I am using it to play with form today! Stap!

5). brooks, mayfield. IWB = IMPROVISING WHILE BLACK, helps in my docu-ments/research for the performance and text because the piece speaks of the still on-going negotiations and balancing Black Artists face in the 21st century like Hughes’ essay, but brooks also lightly brings into conversation queerness and gender; there roles dealing with the Black creatives identity and/or process as another layer to con-sider.

6). Assata Shakur's books along with Riggs' writing gave me inspiration to experiment with text and words. Her usage of spelling remixing America to Amerkkka and what she is implying that White Supremacist ideology is woven in the tapestry of this country on multiple levels. There, for I use the strikethroughs to also call out and in some of the -isms affecting Black people. Snap!  

7). “Where are the Podcast Blaccents?,” was a 2019 panel discussion that brought to-gether various Black voices who spoke of some of the code switching and meshing Black creatives have to implore in order to subvert White supremacy. What this podcast showed me about code switching and/or meshing is that turning on or off one Black-ness i.e. our aesthetics can take place in various iterations for, writings, non-verbal movements and voice. Moreover, I thought there are instances where code switching and/or meshing take place in my performance and the form used in this text. It should be apparent that this podcast also gave me inspiration to use AAVE and/or Blaccent(s) experiment with the form in the text. I will also add that the turning on and off one's Blackness correlates with Hughes’ sounding balancing and negotiating one's black-ness.

8). When I mention death in this text I am not just referring to a physical death. After re-viewing Achille Mbembe’s text “Necropolitics,” allowed me to understand that there are more than one type of death a person can experience i.e a social death in society.

9). Below, is an ongoing list of Black Vocabulary terms. That is compiled from my re-search and scholarship involving critical race theory, queer of color critique, reviewing Urban Dictionary, from films such as Paris is Burning, and Marlon Riggs’ work both in his writings and in films. Ohhh And, yeah Karen! My vernacular also comes from just being Black and embracing Black aesthetics in multiple forms too. Snap!



Black Boy Joy - is drawing with the Black senses, and this may be through feel-ing/tough i.e. one has to take away their White Gaze eyes, taste, smell, and breath in order to access drawing while black. And, through this manipulation of the senses a joy can be achieved that’s rooted in Blackness that’s situated in exploring both the ug-liness and beauty of existing while Black.

Black Breath - is purposefully hindering/restricting your breath; to take control over your life.   To feel your breath/life on your own terms.

Black CPT - is this the immediacy. The feel/sensation of knowing your life could be taken from you at any moment just for being Black. And, still choosing to create/live.

Black Feel/Felt - is not just the sensation of touching your skin, but feeling/felting both the visible and invisible consequences of having Black skin.

Black Sight - is a forced blindness. The removal of the white gaze; to perceive both the beauty and the ugliness of Blackness on one's own terms.

Black Sound - is channeling/tapping into both the pleasure and pain of the moan.

Bottom - Referencing a person gets penetrated anally during sexual activities.

Chill - Relax. Chill, the act of calming ya ass down Karen.

CPT - Colored People's Time

Da - is short for the word, “The.”

Dark Continent - A derogatory reference made toward the beautiful motherland that is Africa.

Dem - Short for them.

Drawing While Black - Black drawings Language. Whether, I draw with lines that are corporal or in the air with lines that are non-corporal or archival, and now even as I draw with lines that are text.

Flying Africans - the myth goes that stolen Africans on slave ships during the middle passage would take their lives rather than be enslaved. They believe that upon death their soul(s) would fly back to Africa. Hence, Flying Africans.

Getting Happy - How some Black folks and/or godly/goddessly people be getting all happy jumping and shouting in da Black church.

Gurl/Gorl - When one is referencing someone. This term can also be gender neutral.

Hold up, ho la, ho la, ho la! - Is a way of saying slow down.

Honey - Can be used as a term of endearment or meant to be condescending to someone. This term is gender neutral.

-isms - anti-Black racism, misogynoir, queer antagonism, Black Ablism, colonialism etc...

Juice - is another way of saying power.

Karen - referring to a person; Who would call the po po on Black folks for existing while Black and/or walking while Black. This term can also be gender neutral.

Nah - means No

Nigga - First, no you still can’t say! Just know that it is a gender-neutral term of affection.

po po - The police. Law enforcement.

Snap! - is performative and signifies the impending reading and/or shade bout to take place. 3 Snaps!

Sup - Short for saying “What is up?” A greeting. A checking in with someone.

Sweaty - Can be used as a term of endearment or meant to be condescending to someone. This term is gender neutral.

Talmbout - Talking about.

TEA or T - Your truth.

Take the L - Take the lose.

TOP - Referencing a person who penetrates someone anally during sexual activities.

Whatevah - means whatever

Writing While Black - a subverting of both the White Gaze, or White Supremacy, or the -isms with text by way of Black aesthetics.

Ya - Short for you.

Yassss Queen! - Celebrating and/or congratulating someone of their fierceness.



Billie Holiday-Strange fruit- HD, Performed by Billie Holiday, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Web007rzSOI, Dec 22, 2011.

Bessie Smith: Empress of the Blues. Macmillian Publishing Co., Inc. New York: 1975.

brooks, mayfield. IWB = IMPROVISING WHILE BLACK writings, Interventions, interrup-tions, questions by mayfield brooks, with interview by Karen Nelson, for CQ, https://contactquarterly.com/cq/article-gallery/view/iwbimprovising-while-black, Contact Quarterly Journal Winter/Spring 2016.

CB4, Directed by Tamra Davis, Universal Pictures, Comedy/Parody, 1h 29m, 1993.

Cartoonist Lynda Barry teaches us how to silence our inner critic and draw like a child, by q on cbc, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CfmeTPQHLE, Nov 25, 2019. 22 min

Diouf, Sylviane A.. Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons (p. 54). NYU Press. Kindle Edition.

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk, Xist Publishing 2015, 1903.

Elliot, Missy. The CookBook, The Goldmind Inc. and Atlantic Records, 2005.

Hughes, Langston. Hughes's "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," https://www.modernamericanpoetry.org/content/langston-hughes-negro-artist-and-racial-mountain-1926, The Nation, 1926.

Hurston, Neale Zora. How It Feels To Be Colored Me, Source Title: The World Tomorrow; Publication Date: May 1928; URL: http://www.cengage.com/custom/static_content/OLC/s76656_76218lf/hurston.pdf., 1928.

Johnson, E. Patrick. "Quare" studies, or (almost) everything I know about queer studies I learned from my grandmother, Text and Performance Quarterly, 21:1, 1-25, DOI:10.1080/10462930128119, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10462930128119, (2001).

Lynda Barry: Accessing the Imaginary, By UM Stamps, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5QsOg-7B6w, Oct 7, 2013. 57 min

Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics, Duke University Press, 2011

Monae, Janelle. Pynk, Dirty Computer, Wondaland, Bad Boy Records, Atlantic Records, 2018.

Mooney, Paul. PAUL MOONEY: A PIECE OF MY MIND – GODBLESS AMERICA (2014) – Full Transcript, Scraps From the Loft, https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2017/12/01/paul-mooney-piece-mind-godbless-america-2014-full-transcript/, December 1st, 2017.

Moonlight, Directed by Barry Jenkins, A24, 2016.

Moten, Fred. In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Paris is Burning, Directed by Jennie Livingston, Miramax, 1991.

Riggs, Marlon T. "Black Macho Revisited: Reflections of a Snap! Queen." Black American Literature Forum 25, no. 2 (1991): 389-94. Accessed April 30, 2020. doi:10.2307/3041695.

Shakur, Assata. Assata An Autobiography, Lawrence Hill Books, 1987.

Summer, Donna. Love to Love You Baby, Album: Love to Love You Baby, Disco, 1975.

Urban Dictionary, Created by Aaron Peckham, Founded in 1999.

Where are the Podcast Blaccents?, SXSW 2019, https://schedule.sxsw.com/2019/events/PP88534 MAR 13, 2019

William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible, by Art21, https://art21.org/watch/william-kentridge-anything-is-possible/full-program-william-kentridge-anything-is-possible/, October 21, 2010. 53:11 min

Figure 1 Moore, Maurice.  "I Got Soul!", Chalk on Blackboard, 2019.



Maurice Moore

Maurice Moore is currently a doctoral Performance Studies student at the University of California-Davis. He recently completed his Masters in African American Studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison in the spring of 2018. From 2011 to 2020, he has exhibited work and performed at the International House Davis (I-House) in Davis California, Christina Ray Gallery in Soho New York, the Lee Hansley Gallery in Raleigh North Carolina, the Greenville Museum of Art in Greenville North Carolina, the Gallery 307 + Orbit Galleries in Georgia Athens, and worked with Rios/Miralda for the Garbage Celebration performance in Madison Wisconsin. The exhibition for his Masters of Fine Arts thesis at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was installed at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in May of 2011. Maurice recommends the Intersectionality Among Men project.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 22:04