Artwork by prison artist C-Note of Black resilience and freedom resonates with the jubilee celebrations of Juneteenth.
Donald "C-Note" Hooker is a California prisoner who has been incarcerated for over a quarter century. C-Note is a poet, playwright, performing artist, and award-winning visual artist, and is known as the King of Prison Hip Hop. His works have either been exhibited, performed, recited, or sold, from Alcatraz to Berlin.
In 2017, Google Search listed him in their search results, as both America's, and the world's most prolific prisoner-artist. His art has come to symbolize Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. C-Note's art is a powerful reminder of the resilience and strength of the African American community, and his work has helped to raise awareness of Juneteenth as a reminder everyone is not free, and there's still work that needs to be done to end mass incarceration.
C-Note was born in 1965 and grew up in Los Angeles. In 1998, he was sentenced to 35 years to life, under California's Three Strikes law. While in prison, C-Note faced a dilemma, as to what to do with his raps, send them to Death Row Records, or some other record label where they may be trashed or stolen? He decided at the age of 34 to learn how to draw. Since he was incarcerated, he had to self-teach himself.
His 2017 work Incarceration Nation has become America's premier work of art on mass incarceration. It was the first work of art by a prisoner to have a billboard exhibition, been used as the lede image in articles, including Wikipedia, Hip Hop music videos, and featured in fashion designer Makenzie Stiles's fashion line Mercy.
His first political artwork Black August - Los Angeles, 2016, which pays tribute to Black History Month for freedom fighters, is listed in Wikimedia Commons's extensive Library as one of only 12 artworks in its Black Cultural Archives.
The fashion world has always played a role in C-Note's visual language. Paula Picassa, 2021, is featured on the cover of Art for Redemption's coffee table book, was featured on a mural, in the email Newsletter of the Marshall Project, and the logo to the Anna D. Smith Fine Art and Real Estate Daily.
He has also worked with Carla Nelson, CEO of Black Fashion World Foundation, and is featured in the The Mask Parade Show, the 2020 Black Fashion World Foundation campaign to inspire the fashion creation of Masks to save Black lives during the pre-vaccine days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Mask Parade Show featured C-Note's 2020 artwork Decarcerate Now!. It was a work he specifically created for Hip Hop artist and artivist MinisterKingXPyeface for his 2020 music video project Mask Protest, a play on the 2020 summer of unrest over the killing of George Floyd.
Another one of his important works is Journey to Afrofuturism, 2020. First written as a poem, and recited at the 30th Annual Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry in 2020. Journey to Afrofuturism was later turned into a drawing. Both drawing and poem was featured in Speculative City Magazine's Issue #10 "Afrofuturism."
The University of California at Santa Cruz closed out its inaugural 2021 - 2022 Academic Year Global event, Afrofuturism Then and Now with a recital and viewing of Journey to Afrofuturism.
"In many circles of the Afrofuturism movement, the body of work called 'Journey to Afrofuturism,' and its Queen Califia, is seen as heralding a Spiritual Queen to the movement," see "The Announcement of the Other Woman King for Black History Month Celebrations."
C-Note's art is often inspired by his experiences in prison. He has created an image of a suicide from hanging by a young African American woman prisoner, and has depicted the violence and despair that he has witnessed behind bars. However, C-Note's art is also full of hope. He has created drawings, poems, and plays that represent the strength and resilience of the African American community.
C-Note's art has helped to raise awareness of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, the day that General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to announce that the Civil War had ended and that all slaves in Texas were free.
Juneteenth is a relatively new holiday, and it is not yet widely celebrated. However, C-Note's art has helped to raise awareness of Juneteenth and its importance. C-Note's work has shown the world that Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the freedom and resilience of the African American community.