Black Artists Elevate Art, Culture

Gabe Stone Shayer

Chinyoung Shao

Gabe Stone Shayer has been dancing almost since he could walk. He began taking classes in his hometown, Philadelphia, at the age of 5. His talent was noticed by The Rock School for Dance Education, where he received a scholarship at the age of 14. He participated in multiple competitions, often placing well. In 2009, he joined the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow where he continued his training.

Shayer is the first African American male to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy since it was founded. After a successful career in Moscow, Shayer returned to the United States (U.S.) and joined the American Ballet Theatre, where he became a soloist in 2020 and expanded his repertoire to include some of ballet’s most famous roles, such as Von Rothbart in Baryshnikov’s “Swan Lake.” Recently, Shayer has focused on reflecting society through ballet. Self-assured and stylish, he now shows the world that today’s ballet is very different from classical stereotypes. Shayer often uses social media to break these stereotypes and share ballet with the world through his eyes.

Amanda Gorman

Chinyoung Shao

At just 24 years old, Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural presidential poet. She famously read her poem “The Hill We Climb” for President Joe Biden in 2020. After the address, Gorman published the piece in her second anthology, “Call Us What We Carry,” released in 2021.

A Harvard graduate and the first National Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman is considered extremely influential. Her poetry often explores the theme of race, focusing on the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow’s influence on modern Black America. Gorman’s path to creative writing and speech was not an easy one. She grew up with a speech impediment, but realized early on that it was not a weakness but a strength, as it led her to improve her pronunciation, sound and pitch.
Gorman is also an activist. In early 2021, she created a nonprofit organization called “One Pen One Page,” which provides free creative writing programs for underprivileged youth around the world.


Chinyoung Shao

Soléna Imani Rowe, better known under her stage name SZA, has made her mark in R&B music and hip-hop in recent years. From MTVs to Grammys, she has won countless awards for her catchy and relatable songs.

Since the start of her career in the early 2010s, SZA quickly rose to fame with the release of her two albums: “ctrl” in 2017 and “SOS” in 2022. The mix of soul, R&B, hip-hop and rock in her music as well as the vulnerability in her lyrics speaks to many. Raised alongside her brother, an aspiring rapper, his passion for music quickly spread to her. Despite having no dreams of becoming a singer growing up, her brother’s insistence on her help with his work slowly led her to fall in love with making music herself. Her music career wasn’t always easy, as she often suffered from anxiety, especially after her album releases.

SZA’s popularity recently increased because of TikTok, which regularly makes her songs go viral through her large fanbase of younger listeners. Currently, SZA is preparing a U.S. tour for her “SOS” album, with plans to visit Oakland Arena on March 14.

El Anatsui

Chinyoung Shao

Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui is one of the most acclaimed artists in African history. He works and lives currently in Nsukka, Nigeria, where he uses simple, everyday materials to create his art. Anatsui has been in the art industry for 40 years and is both a sculptor and a Professor of Sculpture and Departmental Head at the University of Nigeria. His sculptures, often made from reusable and neglected materials such as bottle caps and newspapers, reflect Anatsui’s interest in reusability and durability and connect consumerism with global environmental issues. He is most known for his large-scale sculptures covered with foil and copper wire. These pieces can often be found in large public spaces worldwide, such as New York, London and Paris, though are more frequent in Nigeria.

Anatsui’s originality and ingenuity have earned him international fame. Some of his most famous works include his 2007 “Fresh and Fading Memories,” which made an impression at the Venice Biennale, and his 2009 “In the World but Don’t know the World,” which was introduced at the Dubai Art fair in 2010.