Gregory Stephen Ionman Tate (1957-2021) was a giant of Black radical thought and creativity, and a conductor of incandescent music. Tate’s body of writing as an influential critic would be enough to enshrine him as a cultural icon, but he is equally important to a generation of musicians as both the co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, a national nonprofit dedicated to the creative freedom of Black artists; and the creator of Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, an outrageously accomplished improv collective. Tate’s sudden passing in December 2021 was a blow to his many loved ones, friends, collaborators, and admirers around the globe.
Tate wrote about visual art with the same incendiary vision, rigor, and wit that he displayed in writing about music. Deeply woven into his many works of fine arts criticism: his towering love for Black people and his unstinting devotion to Black culture. Not surprisingly, Tate’s vast personal circles included dozens of major artists, from renowned innovators to rising-star creators. Several were among his closest friends.