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YBE Culture
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April 2019

Okeeba Jubalo

Hello Mayor Bottoms,          


         For the last few weeks the idea of writing you has been moving around in my head and spirit. What exactly would I write and why would you read it? I knew the center of this letter would be about the impact of gentrification on our Black Arts scene in Atlanta. Also I was thinking about the need for new skilled visionaries within our city’s department of cultural affairs.   

         I do not want to take up needless time about what I have done in our city over the last twenty-six years. My roles are very diverse. From being a Fine Artist, Black Arts activist, publisher, community leader, mentor, musician, poet, photographer, branding guru, Business builder, so on and so on. I will provide my links if you are interested in seeing how far the rabbit hole goes.     What has me unsettled is the reality of our Black Artists in Atlanta. Due to the current leadership structure centered around the business of The Arts, mixed with the hard realities of gentrification our artists are disappearing from Atlanta. Sadly, regardless of the disciplines. Artists are not doing well financially, spiritually and physically in our city. There aren’t any real programs in place to help our geniuses who are forced to take up other trades as a means to survive in this city.

         Atlanta has become more of a ridiculous punchline rather than a hard punch in the Arts community on a national level. Every year we have an exodus of local talent who travel to Miami for Art Basel as a means of hopefully getting “discovered.” Imagine that, Black Artists having to leave Atlanta to be discovered? The Art Basel of 2018 produced a wave of national press for a group of Black Women artists who are based in Atlanta. These beautiful Black artists made it clear to our nation that Atlanta is culturally unstable, unclear and unsupportive for not only Black women artists, but for all artists in general.     

         Though my fight of nearly thirty years within Atlanta has been centered around creating a stable economic system for the Black Artists, I will admit that artists of other ethnic groups are facing similar issues. I fully understand that tax dollars are generated according to those who live in the community. The priority is and has always been to focus on those who generate the most tax revenue for the city. We can see how this plays itself out in underfunded schools. This model has created a very suffocating and lopsided structure within the Arts community. In reality this means the only Black artists who are able to thrive will be the handpicked few who either make enough money to live in the right area or the ones connected to those who live in the right area.

         This has created a system of stunted nepotism where the real talent within Atlanta has to become great in spite of being in Atlanta. Atlanta has become a graveyard for amazing artists who will starve and die here. Between the thundering hunger pains mixed with the well attended and underfunded art exhibitions most artists laugh at the idea of Atlanta EVER becoming a real Arts market. Talent is not and has not ever been our issue. A lack of creative leadership who can maximize the tax funds allotted to the Arts in our community are our main problems.         

         As Atlanta continues to gentrify the city, the artists and art will be reflective of those who live in the community. Black artists and Black art will continue to disappear until we are gone. These words are not being dramatic or overly expressed. I have actually toned down my word choices to express the realities our artists are facing in Atlanta.     

         I am one who believes that expressing our issue is one side of the conversation. The next side of our conversation should be around expressing a creative and realistic plan to resolve this issue. I have the plan, creativity and skills needed to create a fertile and profitable space for our artists, the city and our community. Hopefully these words have encouraged and moved you to allow for us to speak about what must be done to save Atlanta’s dying Arts scene. I look forward to speaking with you soon.



Okeeba Jubalo

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