Black Lives Matter: Celebrating Black Art And Communities

Writer and 800 Collective founder Josiah Golson uses his writing to spread love and knowledge of Black Art and activism


One of the most important issues that has been made obvious by the protests currently occurring across not just Chattanooga but all of America is a lack of understanding towards minority and marginalized communities. This disconnect goes far beyond the justice system though to many common aspects of life, including the underrepresented arts and histories of these groups. Josiah Golson is trying to change this.


Josiah is an attorney, artist, and writer who has been heavily affecting the arts community of Chattanooga for years. He combines his expertise in law and as an artist to tell stories based on history, law, and community themes through creative visuals and beautifully written stories. An interest in civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall was what originally drew Josiah to the idea of practicing law, and these ideals can still be seen all that he creates.


“I wanted to combine an understanding of the world with the creative visions of artists like Frida Kahlo,” Josiah said. “Me going to law school was a part of my journey to become a civic artist who can inform and inspire.”


Josiah is also the founder of the 800 Collective, an organization created in 2015 with the goal of engaging the public through art. Through the 800, Josiah creates art sessions and public workshops that are meant to tell the stories of artists and to engage the community on civic issues.


Josiah is a staunch supporter of Black Lives Matter and has been since it began in 2013.


“I remember watching the news of the acquittal of the murder charges for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Me and my roommate spent all night discussing the verdict and what it meant for history and the validity of an institution that allowed such an injustice.”


"Crossroad Chronicles", by Josiah


As part of his way to show his support and spread positivity during this time, Josiah did a virtual reading on Juneteenth on Facebook and Instagram of his book, The Souls of Free Folk. The Souls of Free Folk is an illustrated book that Josiah published in 2018. It was heavily inspired by the works by W. E. B. DuBois and uses poetic language and lovely visuals to tell a story of communal healing. It focuses heavily on the legacy of Black writers, artists, creators, and communities to honor them and celebrate their art.


“Educating ourselves of the full story of American history is so critical in this moment as history is unfolding before us.”


Josiah sees his book and his efforts to spread its message as a chance to create civic engagement and create more conversations about race, identity, and community. He sees art as a vehicle through which these subjects can be engaged away from many of the distractions that have blanketed current topics and events.


“I want my creations to inspire Chattanooga’s communities to foster awareness, a sense of history, and mature grace in recognizing and taking accountability for our past, present, and future.”


You can watch the recording of Josiah reading The Souls of Free Folk here, or you can check out the book for yourself here! Make sure to visit Josiah’s website and to follow him on Instagram to learn more about his projects and ways that you can support Black artists in our community.


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