This Homeless Artist Challenged Racism With His Shocking Art

jean michel basquiat painting
Via Flickr
December 22, 2021

Bruised and exhausted, Jean-Michel Basquiat decided his father had beaten him for the last time. He quietly snuck out his window, never to return home.

But where would he go? Fear and hopelessness sunk in as he made a life on the streets. But then something extraordinary happened.

He and his friend Al Diaz began tagging “SAMO” all over New York, not thinking anything would come of it. But the art world went wild trying to uncover the artist and meaning behind the message! Which was … what?

“SAMO” was a political statement, reflecting our community’s calls for changes to an unjust system, yet still getting the SAMO – or  “Same Old Shit.” 

Paired with Basquiat’s abstract illustrations, his innovative art challenged institutional racism. Naturally, he got noticed!

His work was controversial. Several reporters dismissed it as “primitive,” whereas art legends like Andy Warhol embraced him! Basquiat, survivor of homelessness and child abuse, became one of the worlds most famous self-taught artists.

Today, his artwork can be seen worldwide – but he unfortunately was only 28 when he died from a drug overdose in 1988. 

Like Basquiat, we must use our talents to challenge oppressive systems – his artwork and message continue to inspire us!

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