The first numbered card of the tarot, the Magician serves as a conduit between the spiritual and physical worlds, making magic happen through concentration, skill, willpower, and practice. In my lifelong journey as a creative person, I have encountered artists, authors, musicians, and poets I would consider “Magicians.”
In observance of Black History Month, and in Celebration of Black Creatives, I would like to showcase 10 Black creatives I think are Magicians and whose work have imbued my life with pure magic.
I first discovered his music in 1984. I was eight years old and was invited into the apartment of the lady who lived below us. Her name was Jody. She made papier mache earrings and offered me a pair when I complemented hers. As I waited in Jody's living room, a song played on her turntable. The singer's voice sounded like neither a man nor a woman. They just sounded like something delicious and sexy and that my eight-year-old ears shouldn't be listening to. But I LOVED IT. I walked away from Jody's apartment that day with a cool new pair of earrings and an obsession with Prince. For those of you who love Prince, I don't have to remind you how revolutionary (no pun intended) his music was or how transcendent his style. He was special. He serenaded all of my firsts. He's still special and I feel like I lost a dear friend and lover when he died.
Photo credit: This photo was pulled from Pinterest, with magical elements added by me.
2. Maya Angelou
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the first and most moving novels I've ever read. Angelou's words, her story, have stayed with me throughout my journey as an artist and writer.
Photo credit: Dr. Angelou's website: www.mayaangelou.com
3. Amanda Gorman
A poet and activist known for her work addressing Black identity, feminism, marginalization, and climate change, Amanda Gorman was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate. She is most notable as the young poet who recited her poem, The Hill We Climb, at President Joe Biden’s inauguration and her words are moving and empowering.
Photo credit: Time Magazine
4. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Basquiat is one of my favorite modern artists, and my most favorite of Andy Warhol's entourage. His painting Untitled (Cadmium) hangs among The High Museum of Art's permanent collection and I love seeing it every time I visit Atlanta.
Photo credit: High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
5. Langston Hughes
My favorite poet, Hughes' poem Harlem is also one of my very favorite poems. Following the poem, below, is a Google Doodle created to celebrate Langston's 113th birthday.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
6. Edmonia Lewis
I've always been intrigued by how sculptors release a figure from the stone (this is how Michelangelo described his work) and Edmonia Lewis' The Death of Cleopatra is such a beautiful example.
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
7. Terry McMillan
I loved McMillan's book How Stella Got Her Groove Back because I can relate so much to Stella... and because Terry’s purpose for writing matches my own: “I write about what breaks my heart. What I don’t understand. And what I wish I could change.”
Photo credit: An Rong Xu for The New York Times
8. Alma Thomas
Born in Columbus, Georgia, my hometown, Thomas' piece Resurrection was the first African-American work to hang in The White House. It's shameful, in my opinion (although not surprising), that nobody before Michelle Obama selected art by a Black artist before this one.
Photo credit: White House Historical Association
9. Alice Walker
One of the best works of literature ever written, The Color Purple is an epistolary novel — a collection of letters — and was also made into my second favorite movie of all time. I fell in love with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey in this movie and its themes of love and family have stayed with me since first watching the film as a child.
Photo credit: Alice with her dog, Mbele, San Francisco, the '90s
10. Kehinde Wiley
I saw Wiley's exquisite portrait of President Barack Obama in 2019 while at a conference in Washington, D.C. It was breathtaking, by far one of the most stunning portraits of an American president in the entire National Portrait Gallery. While gazing at the work, a small, old white lady stood beside me sniffling into her tissue. She looked from the painting to me, and with watery eyes said, “I sure do miss him.”
Without hesitation, I replied, “I do, too.”
Photo credit: Kehinde Wiley, The Guardian; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
On Monday, March 7, I will post the next installment in my Tarot Stories series: The High Priestess.
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of upmarket, literary, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Publishing Company, LLC, an editing and design service that helps indie writers grow in their craft and achieve their self-publishing goals. Although she earned a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, she has yet to figure out her family, much less herself.
When she’s not writing, Mandy loves going to the movies, theater, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, margarita-making, and binge-watching The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to promote wellness and enhance creativity. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four boys, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.