Black History Month

Rachelle Baker: Inspired By the Past, With Our Eyes on the Future

Nostalgia is a powerful part of the human experience. It evokes so many moods – warmth, sadness, happiness, longing — that often come flooding in all at once.

Nostalgia is far more powerful than memory alone. It is a journey into our head and heart, a reminder from our soul that what mattered in the past can provide comfort and inspiration for the future.

In February, IBM spotlighted 20 Black IBMers of the past and present whose contributions in technology transformed society and the world. It was a celebration of accomplishment and a look into our essence. It was nostalgic in the very best sense of the word.

Consider the story of Rachelle Baker, a Detroit-based graphic artist whose colorful and declarative work is beautiful in both a timeless and modernist fashion. Baker was commissioned by IBM to create the Emb(race) Black Artist series as part of Black History Month and IBM’s overall efforts in support of social justice and racial equality. “My art and my style reflect people who commonly go unseen and feel unseen,” Baker said.

It was exactly the kind of vibe IBM was aiming for with this project. “We wanted an emerging, young Black artist in the US who could provide illustrations that present everyone with equity,” said Todd Simmons, IBM VP of Brand Experience & Design.

Baker specializes in comic book art and graphic novels, a bold style that creates great storytelling.  “I want people to see themselves in my illustrations, to feel seen and to share their stories,” she says. “Portraying someone’s personality to someone you don’t know or would have seen is something I enjoy.”

She hopes to always create something that inspires others, a space for others to escape the harshness of reality. “Art is a great outlet and does something to the soul,” Baker said.

Her work evokes the nostalgic power of the black-and-white photos of the past but enlivens it with color and contrast.

Baker admits she was surprised when she received the request to provide illustrations for the IBM series. Growing up in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, she remembers seeing a really neat IBM building off the highway and thinking cool innovations must happen inside. Now she is a part of that innovative team, a creative visionary who draws from the past to inspire the future.