Donald White (artist name Dondi) was like any NYC youth growing up in the rough streets of 1970s Brooklyn. He showed early promise as a talented sketch artist, but safety took priority.
Still, something more heroic, daring, and arousing vied for his attention.
His passion for street art started as a means of protection. To stay safe in foreign neighborhoods, he needed to identify tags that signaled hostile territory.
But soon he found that graffiti could serve a higher purpose than pissing off authorities.
Dondi itched to make the world pay attention. A perfect example could be found in his most legendary series Children of The Grave (1978-80), based on the Black Sabbath song. He painted his signature bright and precise letters across MTA trains, incorporating elements that broadcasted his strong opinions on national and global politics.
Despite his icon status as street and (later) gallery artist, Dondi wasn’t interested in fame or fortune. He wanted impact, and that meant lifting the next generation as he climbed.
He apprenticed members of his graffiti crews “CIA” and “Soul Artist,” guiding young talent to the next level.
Although his life was cut short by illness at age 37, his legacy continues as an example of how strongly one powerful voice can echo through a system built to suppress creative, status-quo-shattering genius.