News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. April 17, 2023: Caribbean American photographer Kwame Braithwaite is set to be laid to rest next week, April 24, following a service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, 132 West 138th Street Harlem in New York from 10 a.m. EST.
Brathwaite, co-founder of the African Jazz-Art Society and Studios (AJASS) and pioneer of the “Black is Beautiful” movement. Brathwaite passed away at the age of 85 on April 1st, leaving behind a legacy that celebrated the beauty and strength of Black culture.
Born as Gilbert Ronald Brathwaite in Brooklyn on January 1st, 1938, he was raised in the South Bronx by immigrant parents from Barbados. Brathwaite’s passion for documenting the cultural, political, and social developments of Harlem, Africa, and the African diaspora was evident from a young age. He attended the School of Industrial Art, now known as the High School of Art and Design, in the early 1950s.
In the early 1960s, Brathwaite adopted the name Kwame as a tribute to Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of post-colonial Ghana. This name change was indicative of his commitment to African liberation and pride in his cultural heritage.
Together with his brother, Elombe Brath, Kwame co-founded the AJASS in 1956. The organization aimed to promote Black culture through various mediums, including music, dance, and visual arts. As the official photographer for AJASS, Brathwaite captured the essence of the Black Arts Movement and the Civil Rights Movement in his images. His photographs were powerful statements of Black pride and served as a visual record of the social and political struggles of his time.
In the mid-1960s, Brathwaite became a prominent figure in the “Black is Beautiful” movement, which aimed to challenge Eurocentric beauty standards and celebrate Black aesthetics. He captured images of Black models with natural hairstyles and African-inspired clothing, which were featured in the “Naturally” and “Grandassa” fashion shows organized by his wife, Sikolo Brathwaite, and her group, the Grandassa Models.
In the 1960s, his work also appeared in New York Amsterdam News, The City Sun, and The Daily Challenge. He photographed concerts of Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, James Brown, and Muhammad Ali. In 2017, Brathwaite was honored at the 75th Aperture Gala.
Brathwaite’s legacy extends beyond his role as a photographer and cultural activist. He was a mentor and inspiration to many young Black artists who followed in his footsteps. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
As Harlem mourns the loss of this cultural icon, it is important to reflect on the impact of his work and the message he conveyed through his photographs. Brathwaite’s legacy is a testament to the power of art to inspire and uplift communities, and his contributions will continue to be felt for generations to come.