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Unafraid of being seen, heard

Professor Emeritus Dana Chandler has been called “controversial,” an “activist artist,” and a “Black Power Artist,” because since his youth, he has been fighting for social justice and human rights using his most powerful tool: his art.

This point was a primary focus of an artist lecture Chandler gave at the University of New Mexico-Gallup campus Feb. 4. He, along with his daughter who is also his representative,  Dahna Chandler, spoke about his decades-long career.


Born in 1941 in Lynn, Mass., Chandler was educated in Boston Public Schools and earned his first accolades as an artist in grade school.

Chandler was an award-winning artist as early as high school, where he won national Scholastic Art Awards for all four years, as well as Boston Technical High School’s First Annual Art Award in 1959. After graduating from high school and working with one of his mentors for two years, he won a spot at the Massachusetts College of Art, where he earned his bachelor’s in Teacher Education in 1967.

In spring 1970, Chandler became an assistant professor at Simmons College, now Simmons University.

Rather than teach art and draw from a Eurocentric perspective, Chandler did his own research and created his own curriculum based on African and African American Experience that would counter what he called the “revisionist historical perspectives” that reduced the experiences of women and people of color in history.

Chandler taught at Simmons for his entire career until retirement in 2004.


Shortly before his college graduation, on June 4, 1967, Chandler witnessed a violent scene where Boston police beat welfare protestors. This was when Chandler went from being a community activist to a “strident revolutionary,” according to his website.

Chandler’s art includes paintings and collages that often depict brutal or horrific scenes involving African Americans. In his artist’s statement on his website, he admits his art makes “white and other people uncomfortable in their denial, complacency, and complicity in the destruction of black lives.”

But, Chandler also insists his art is his way of showing his love for his own people and does not translate into hatred for other racial groups. He also states it is his form of protest.

Chandler recounted comments from years back he said would upset white people, because he said they are the cause of the problems other ethnic groups face.

“[I told them] ‘You’re our major problem in life because you’re always getting in our way,’” he said. “[I told them] I think it’s a form of excessive tribalism, and we do not need you in every moment of our lives.”

Dahna Chandler spoke about how she and her father do not intend to group every white person together with these statements, but their heated words are directed at those who treat them in a racist and violent manner.

She also spoke about how their comments will give certain people a chance to reflect on who they are and what they can do next.

“The one thing I’ve learned as a scholar, is the people who represent the problem are the ones who have to fix it,” Dahna Chandler said.

She continued by recounting the effects the current presidential administration has had on these groups of people.

“When these rabid racist people show up and want to commit acts of violence, they meet their own faces,” she said. “They look at people who look like them and have come to let them know, in no uncertain terms, they’re not welcome and this is not what we do in America.”


The words Chandler shared with the audience at UNM-G are similar to what he told his students at Simmons, he said.

“I work. I believe in work,” Chandler said. “You should be about work and about being the best you can be at it.”

Chandler spoke about how he always enjoyed working and teaching with his students.

“[I had] all kinds of students. I don’t play the game of judging people or differentiating between students,” he said. “They were all my students and they were all my children.”

Chandler said the students in the audience should be committed to their studies because they will be essential tools going forward, and not just for themselves.

“You are the elite of your people and your job is to learn whatever you can to help your people,” he said.

His view of the importance of work is also why Chandler has a strong belief in better pay for teachers, as well as public service workers like firefighters and police officers.

“The people who take care of you, who keep you alive, deserve to be well-paid,” Chandler said. “You all should fight for that.”

Dahna Chandler spoke about how students can receive guidance that will help them on their life path, but they should also be trusted to act on their own.

“You [parents] are worried because you did not grow up in the world your kids are inheriting. They’re used to it. They know how to protect themselves. They know what they’re in for. But give them some perspective on the minds of the people they’re dealing with.”

“Let them go, let them be who they are,” she added.

Dana Chandler’s artwork can be viewed at the Ingham Chapman Gallery at UNM-Gallup from Feb. 3 - 28 as part of the exhibit “Hannah’s Reparations Denied: 500 years of

AmeriKKKa’s Kontribution to the Black Woman/Black Man.”

For more information on the artist, visit https://celebratedactivistartist.com/.

By Cody Begaye
Sun Correspondent