Barstow Community College hosts Out from Under: A Conversation with Marc Bamuthi Joseph.


Out from Under art exhibition winner Jerry Weems explains his oil-on-canvas piece “The Other Pandemic.”

Charr Davenport, Reporter

Barstow Community College paired with Arts Connection, the Arts Council of San Bernardino County, on Saturday, Feb. 27 to present Out from Under: A Conversation with Marc Bamuthi Joseph. The event was part of Out from Under: Uncovering the Unseen Genius of Black Artists in San Bernardino County, an art exhibition celebrating unknown black artists during black history month. It was hosted by three-time NAACP Image Award winner T. Faye Griffin, director of Barstow Community College’s Guided Pathways Program Eartha Johnson, and executive director of Arts Connection Jennifer Kane and featured performing artist and vice-president and artistic director of social impact at the Kennedy Center Marc Bamuthi Joseph as a speaker and heavily focused on the topics of race and art. 

The event started with a showing of Bamuthi Joseph’s spoken-word poem “Waves and Bridges,” a piece about bridging the racial divide

before he gave insight on his upbringing as a first-generation black American of Haitian descent in Queens, New York, and his political awakening. “I was raised in the same place and time as hip-hop was birthed,” said Bamuthi Joseph. “My political awakening, my political vocabulary, and literacy came through there. So I am as much a product of Baldwin or Morrison, or Langston Hughes or Nikki Giovani, as I am of Lauren Hill or Andre 3000, or Black Thought, or The Roots and Chuck D.”  

The topic soon changed into a darker one however as Bamuthi Joseph brought up the dangers of race. “I step outside of playing Carnegie Hall and I’m just a black man on 7th [Avenue, New York].” He explained his experience as a black person in the United States and the fears he has when it comes to law enforcement. “I have grey in my hair and it tells the truth. I am just barely older than George Floyd was when he was murdered. But I am much older than Trayvon [Martin]. And if you think about someone like Emmett Till, if you think about someone like Tamir Rice, that’s the range in this country, tragically.” 

Bamuthi Joseph’s worry is not unfounded. According to a research study by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) done in 2019, black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men and black women are 1.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white women. The study also showed that among all racial groups, black men are the most likely to be killed by police. A different study done in 2020 by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health claims that black Americans are actually 3.23 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. 

Another person who shared this worry was Jerry Weems, who was announced the winner of the Out from Under: Uncovering the Unseen Genius of Black Artists in San Bernardino County art exhibition at the end of Bamuthi Joseph’s speech. While all of Weems’ pieces for the exhibition focused on black life in America, his featured piece “The Other Pandemic” was an oil-on-canvas self-portrait of being pulled over by the police due to racial profiling. “I illustrate the stories of people, places, and events that have had a significant impact on me, as well as other African American’s lives today,” said Weems on his exhibition art page. 

The announcement of Weems’ as the winner of the exhibition marked the end of both Out from Under events.