Monday, November 19, 2007

Tha Artivist Sums Up Michael Holman's Historic Visit To The Bluff City For The Memphis Tri-State Defender

Hip Hop Pioneer Pitches Memphis Urban Arts Renaissance

Worth The Wait: Charles Settle and Timothy Gibson share thoughts as they await Holman’s arrival for a reception/lecture at Rhodes College. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)

Celebrated Hip Hop pioneer and urban renaissance artist Michael Holman rolled into Memphis for the first time last week to spread his message of educational empowerment through the arts. A public reception and lecture by Holman at Rhodes College turned into a town hall meeting with Holman acting as moderator.

Later, at New Direction Church, Holman, who teaches graduate/undergraduate screenwriting and directing at Howard University in Washington, DC, was the keynote speaker at the 4th Annual College Preparation Forum created by Callie Herd of I. A. M. (“Inspiring Academic Motivation.”)

Words To Build On: An education with a foundation in the arts can give the least and so-called powerless among us hope and purpose, said Michael Holman. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)

Advocating A New Direction

Describing Michael Holman includes listing him as an artist, urban anthropologist, educator, screenwriter and director.

A leading impresario in the early days of Hip Hop, today – as a filmmaker – Holman is an influential observer of popular culture and entertainment.

Holman was also close friends with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom he once formed a band called Gray. He wrote the screenplay for “Basquiat,” which tells the story of the meteoric rise of the youthful artist.

Holman also produced, wrote and recorded music for, as well as acted in, the classic art film “Downtown 81,” which stars Basquiat, who died at 27. Basquiat’s work is interesting as well as controversial and the fact that he was African-American and his work now sells for millions of dollars is worth noting.

As keynote speeches go, Holman’s talk at the closing of the 4th Annual College Preparation Forum at New Direction Church was truly “edutaining” (educational and entertaining) in every sense of that colorful phrase.

He advocated that one must be passionate about life by finding one’s true purpose through arts education. He urged parents as the primary providers, guardians and educators of their children to play a more proactive role in the development of their children’s education.

Holman urged them to help their children better themselves at all times possible by not only being supportive but also actively assisting their children in their goals/pursuits. One way to make children better students and people is by exposing them to cultural experiences, such as going to museums, operas, plays and live musical performances, he said.

The Basquiat Connection: A close friend of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Holman wrote the screenplay for the movie “Basquiat” and produced, wrote and recorded music, and acted in the classic art film “Downtown 81,” which stars the real Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Holman spoke poignantly about Basquiat, his close friend and collaborator. He told them that although Basquiat was portrayed as a graffiti artist from the streets by the mainstream media at the time, he actually came from a culturally proud Brooklyn household that valued education.

An education with a foundation in the arts can give the least and so-called powerless among us hope and purpose, said Holman. He mentioned an urban arts project called King’s Court that he and his artist comrades started back in the mid-90s in the southeast Anacostia area of Washington D.C.

King’s Court was a youth arts empowerment organization. The project got its name from a housing development (named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) in the Anacostia neighborhood, considered one of the nation’s toughest. The purpose of the organization was to empower disadvantaged African American youths through arts education.

A Vision: The eyes of the art world and beyond will soon be on Memphis, said Michael Holman, who sees great things happening for many in the Memphis black visual arts community. (Photo by Warren Roseborough)

Although they had no budget and no so–called certificate of validation of expertise from the powers that be, they were able to make an impact on the lives of five young people. Holman laments that budget constraints and other factors restricted the helping of more children.

One of the program’s goals was to develop the youths’ conceptual or critical thinking skills through arts training and application. Holman reasoned that the only way people would be motivated to change their lives for the better would be to visualize or train their mind’s eye to transform the so-called mundane reality of everyday living into something beyond the “extra” ordinary. He wanted the students to engage their environment and to have to control over their reality and possibilities by making their environment a product of them, and not the other way around.

Holman reminded parents in the crowd at New Direction that it is never too late to find your true passion and calling in life. He told the story of his brother, who considered himself a failure because his naval military career did not work out as he planned. Holman said his brother discovered a genius for electrical engineering by accident and today is an in-demand electrical engineer because he discovered his true passion or calling in life.

Holman challenged parents and students, young and old to take up new challenges in life and not to be limited by a narrow view and definition of success created by others.

Don’t let a fear of the unknown and uncertain paralyze you from taking positive risks and steps in order to advance your life’s aspirations, he said.

He also advocated leading a life of constant evolving and learning. At 52, Holman said he still is trying to learn as much as he can and to make his ultimate dreams an ultimate reality.

Holman urged the oldest members in the audience to try something new because you can never be too set in your ways to learn something new about yourself. Always trust your passions and you can never go wrong, he said.

From beginning to end, his message was constant: Have a vision for your life and make it happen through passion.

(Ron Herd II, also known as R2C2H2 Tha Artivist, hosts the Internet radio show “Tha Artivist Presents...W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio” at His Website is

(To learn more about Michael Holman, visit his website

(Holman reflects about his Memphis trip on W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio:

(To learn about scholarships, internships and job opportunities, visit Callie Herd’s blog,

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