Edit 10/22/15: Nassau Weekly has properly credited the work and issued an apology at the bottom of the article. I am still uncertain how they could not have been aware of the previous comment left on the blog, or why they thought it was okay to use the work without proper credit given in the first place, but I am happy to see the problem resolved now and hope they will be more careful going forward.
The other day my fiance, Joey, was scrolling along his facebook feed when he stopped cold.
“That’s Wes,” he said.
“Huh?” I asked, leaning over to get a look at his screen. We’re buds with three different Weses (Wesi?) and it took me a moment to figure out what was up.
“That’s Wes’s album cover. This article is using it.” He pointed to the preview image for an article another friend of ours had posted about afrofuturism titled Ferguson is the Future. The thumbnail image was of an illustration by Rogier de Boevé. It’s a piece of art Wes commissioned, and paid for, for use as the cover for his album, Tha Art of Slapp. It’s actually a portrait of Wes as Lord Nealli (aka Lord Neallion), his hip-hop persona. It’s abstracted, but it still really looks like him. There was my friend’s face, headlining an article posted by Nassau Weekly.
“Cool,” I said, thinking: Sweet! Wes is going to get some exposure! He’s worked hard, he totally deserves the mention.
Then I read the article.
There’s not a single mention of Rogier de Boevé, or Wes, or Lord Nealli in the entire thing. The image is credited to inspirationfeed.com. After some serious digging, I discovered a feature article on inspirationfeed about Rogier and his work. That’s great, honestly. Inspirationfeed obviously asked Rogier for permission to display his work along with their interview, and the article links back to his portfolio - as it should.
But the link posted as credit for the image on the Nassau article? It doesn’t even link to that interview. It links to inspirationfeed.com, that’s it. That’s like listing your image credit as pinterest.com.
I should not have to do a fucking reverse image search to discover who created the piece of art you’re using.
The piece, titled Lord Nealli, is awesome. I get why you’d want to use it. But it is absolutely not free to use without asking the artist. It is especially not free to use without giving credit to the original illustrator, let alone without mentioning Lord Nealli, whose face the work is of.
I expect this kind of nonsense from the likes of Cracked and Buzzfeed, I sure as shit do not expect it from students at Princeton. There is absolutely no excuse for this behavior. Not when the use of Creative Commons licensing is so widespread. Not when the name of the artist of the work you’re stealing is listed all over the article you’re stealing the piece from.
The editors who let this slide were either lazy, or just didn’t care. I’m not sure which mindset is worse. But here’s the kicker: I agree with the article’s content. I think the discussion around afrofuturism needs to be more widespread. But sitting on top of all those words I agree with is a piece of art commissioned for a black man’s album, without proper credit given. This article had a chance to showcase a black artist, and it didn’t even try. At the very least, a link back to Rogier’s website would have lead the curious to discover the name of the portrait and what it was commissioned for.
From the article:
“[...] other speakers warned that we must beware of “old suns masquerading as new suns”. What might appear to be a brand new world on the surface might be the same old same old hierarchies and oppression underneath the shiny technology. In other words, “what is futuristic is not necessarily progressive.” And vice versa, I suppose.”
The author goes on to say:
“My group discussed how to hold onto this way of thinking once we got back to the real world, where your al- lies in the fight will not always be there to hold space for you.”
And I want to think this article is a herald of new suns. I want to believe that the fact that Nassau Weekly is writing about afrofuturism at all is a step toward a better future.
But that’s my friend’s face up there. Stripped of his name.
Tell me again how you’re an ally.
* Nassau Weekly was contacted on Oct. 18th regarding the lack of proper attribution and has yet to respond as of the posting of this article. A comment left on the blog on Oct. 18th with attribution links has yet to be approved by the moderators, although a comment praising the article was approved on Oct. 20th.