By Nehemiah D. Frank
TULSA — Alexander Tamahn is a Fort Worth native, who relocated to northeast Oklahoma to attend Oral Roberts University. After college, he chose Tulsa as home. And he’s transforming Tulsa with his art.
Some described him as a modern-day black Michelangelo. And while he admires the works of classic artist such as Frida Kahlo or modern pieces by Kehinde Wiley, Alex’s art is in entire class of its own. His illustrations are usually centered-around empowering the marginalized, amplifying voices of the unheard, all while provoking the privileged to critical thought. He is a man of faith on a divine mission to transform the world through purposeful art.
His incredible story begins in childhood when his parents first noticed that Alex has an extraordinary talent. One year during back-to-school night, Alex’s teacher pointed out a recognizable difference between Alex’s illustrations and the drawings of other students. His work was more developed and mature. On account of that, his parents made the conscious decision to nourish and cultivate his natural ability by enrolling him in theater performance and art classes.
While Alex’s parents and teachers were aware of his extraordinary gift, he wasn’t quite cognizant of his talented skill sets until later years. In high school, Alex’s teachers would frequently enter his artwork into competitions; eventually, he noticed that other students weren’t getting their drawings entered at the same rate as his. He eventually came to the conclusion that his teachers were entering his work because his illustration were good enough to possibly win.
The intersectionality between the art and political world are candid; it can transforms the world by provoking and evolving perspectives. And after two unarmed black men were brutally murdered in Tulsa, Alex painted a mural with the names Eric Harris and Terence Crutcher, to black men murdered by Tulsa Police officers, and the slogan Black Lives Matter in a mural. It gained a lot of attention.
Alex says, “Art is meant to evoke necessary conversations. We’re supposed to use our platforms to invoke positive social change in the world.”
Due to budget cuts, America has seen the dwindling of funding towards the arts in American schools. Alex believes art is necessary for representation because it helps in fostering culture, and it gives credence to narratives that need to be heard. He also believes that people are in need of access to art and that it can even be cathartic and healing for those dealing with trauma.
The mural below was a joint effort. Students from McLain High school in north Tulsa joined Alex with a former McLain HS teacher, Rebekah Campbell Mcllwain. Alex, along with Rebekah, and the students collaborated on the mural with the end goal of changing people’s negative perception about north Tulsa. They want the rest of the city to know that north Tulsa is beautiful and worth investing in.
With school shootings on the rise in American schools, Alexander’s recent projects are centered-around gun control. “Action needs to take place. I’m frustrated about the political and social climate, but I’m not without hope,” he said.
His greatest mission: “I want to change the world.” Alex remains hopeful that art will help in aiding for a better Tulsa and a better world.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a Political Science degree from Oklahoma State University. He is a community activism, a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community of North Tulsa, home to America’s Black Wall Street. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and the Community Impact Award recipient for the MET Cares Foundation and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. His latest accolade includes a TEDx Talk at the University of Tulsa.