Basquiat: Untitled (Black Tar and Feathers), 1982

By Boris Salvador Ingles
By Boris Salvador Ingles

By Steven Hendrix

violent heritage brought forth from slavery past
tar stuck to the canvas as it was stuck to flesh
ripping and tearing it from history without fully separating it
a visceral reminder of a horrifying punishment
the feathers and halos turn martyrs to angels
for us in the present looking back
trying to understand America now
how we got here from there
Basquiat reminds us that tarring and feathering
still exists in symbolic America
juxtaposing the past and present
because that’s what artists do
tell us about ourselves, where we came from
what we’ve become, where we’re going
giving us a chance to stop and change course

arrows of outrageous fortune fall on us
as legacy as heritage from our own hands
we find ways to negotiate with ourselves
to exonerate from blame from willing participation
we haven’t tarred and feathered anybody after all
but there it is staring us in the face
a mirror held up to the depths of our souls
and we see the blackness we try to deny
not us but the black hand of fate that has done this
and we’re stuck in tar, baby, missing the train
traveling underground along the OHAYO river

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