‘Kiss My Black Arts’ illustrates Black voices during the pandemic

African American artists in the Bay Area convey love and hope to the Black community through art during the Black History Month.

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Samantha Laurey

(Matteo Davinci, Shido, and Rtystk Shavers in the KMBA studio in Oakland on Feb. 19. (Samantha Laurey / Golden Gate Xpress)

As Black History Month comes to a close, one Bay Area art collective has used its space to hold a four-week exhibition to promote Black art and artists alike, even during the gathering restrictions of COVID-19.

Kiss My Black Arts is a creative discourse collective that was founded in Oakland in June 2012. Rtystk Shavers, founder of the Kiss My Black Arts Collective, is also a social justice activist.

In response to the highly publicized killing of Black individuals by law enforcement around the country in the past year, Shavers said that his team will continue to use artistic methods to speak out for the Black community and social injustice.

“Well, the COVID-19 for me being a public artist and a muralist. As you can tell, when you drive throughout the Bay Area, I’ve been doing a lot more murals, especially around the social justice theme, and Black Lives Matters,” Shavers said. “My social world has definitely been affected by Covid-19, tremendously. The reason why we continue to organize during this COVID-19 era is because we need to eat and we have families that we need to support.”

Tracey Bellborden has been part of the Kiss My Black Arts collective since the beginning of the art collective.

Collective art pieces and shirts made by the members of KMBA neatly arranged inside of one of the rooms in their studio space. The studio displays work from KMBA members within the main room, a collective room and studio space for fashion by Lexi Sessions. (Samantha Laurey / Golden Gate Xpress) (Samantha Laurey)

“It’s about acknowledging who we are every day of the year, not just for a particular time of the year or a particular month,” Bellborden said about the collective’s aim to amplify Black voice. “We use art to let people remember history and the major events we have suffered.”

Bellborden added there are often social issues afflicting Black people that can be alleviated through standing up to spread the correct values and energy through art, which can be therapy for people and show the world examples of equity.

Ezella Reb is a consumer who was buying the latest portrait made by Kiss My Black Arts for Black History Month. Reb not only praised the beauty of the portrait, as an African American, she also expressed her support for Black culture.

“No matter how complicated the social situation is or whether it is beneficial to black people,nothing can stop me to support  black community and black culture output, even under the Covid-19 epidemic,” Reb said.