February is Black History Month. It began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora, recognizing the importance of reflecting on and engaging with history to provide context that helps society move forward.
Black culture is diverse, complex, and constantly evolving, shaped by the intersections of race, ethnicity, nationality, and individual experiences within the broader Black community. The importance of Black culture lies in its significant contributions to the world in various areas, as well as its role in fostering a sense of identity, resilience, and empowerment among Black individuals and communities.
Recognizing Black History Month is an opportunity to go beyond stories of racism and slavery to highlight and celebrate Black achievement.
Stephen Wiltshire is a UK-based artist who draws and paints detailed cityscapes, with a particular talent for drawing lifelike and accurate representations of cities–even after having only observed them briefly.
As a young child, Stephen was non-verbal and received an autism diagnosis at the age of three. Once he entered school, his teachers noticed his affinity for drawing–it was the way he communicated with the world–and one in particular took an interest in him and helped to foster his future career. Meanwhile, he learned to speak and was fully verbal by age 9. In the ensuing years, Stephen has gained worldwide reknown as an artist, even being named by Queen Elizabeth II as a Member of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his services to the art world.
In addition to his contributions to the art world, Stephen is also a poet. He uses his words to inspire autistics to embrace their unique gifts and share them with the world.
In honour of Black History Month and to celebrate the diversity of our community, Stephen shared this poem with us. We hope that it inspires our readers to value their own gifts, talents and abilities and encourages them to be courageous in sharing them with their communities.
They say I am an autistic artistic savant
I say I am Stephen Wiltshire and I am an artist
They say I have a disability
I say I have many abilities.
They say I am autistic
I say I am artistic.
I don’t understand what they say. I don’t understand autism. I don’t care.
I understand that I am an artist and it makes me happy.
My artwork makes people feel good and they smile
I learnt to read and write through my drawings.
It taught me how to communicate and share my passion.
Through my eyes you can see my world.
My point is… I am who I am , don’t try to change me
Do the best you can and never stop!
If you want to learn more about Stephen, his art and his contributions to the art world, visit his website: www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk
*For other inspiring stories that celebrate Autism in Black History Month, visit: Celebrating Autism in Black History Month (opyacare.com)