Young spoke of the critical role black soldiers played in battles throughout American history and how this was often omitted from official narratives. His paintings served to honor soldiers while condemning war: “I make like I'm a warrior, like God sending an angel to stop war.”

His affinity for the concept of the warrior—a person fighting for a cause —stretched beyond American conflicts and was spiritual in nature. Young’s closest friend, Silo Crespo, a Santeria priest, would often discuss Africa with him and Young himself would seek out documentaries, TV shows, and history books to learn more on his own. He believed himself to have been, in a previous life, a Zulu warrior. “I fantasize like I’ve been here before. I was a warrior…I feel like I was a Zulu, but I wasn’t no chief, I just obeyed, just obeyed like our American soldiers do.”

Young would discuss the influence of artists such as El Greco, Paul Gauguin and Rembrandt in his paintings, but regarding his warrior paintings he would specifically mention his affinity for Frederic Remington’s depictions of soldiers. The majority of Young’s Zulu warriors are on horseback with lances or rifles and shields. Acknowledging that his paintings of Zulu warriors could be seen as historically inaccurate, Young described his creation of a narrative whereby his warriors took their horses from the Europeans: “Sometimes when I put warriors on horses, like Zulu, some say ‘Young, ain’t no horses at that time in Africa.’ But see, I imagine that we took them from the people who came from Europe with the horses. They ain’t no zebras, I know they got zebras that look like horses. But a zebra, I don’t think you can tame a zebra, because he’s stubborn.”


All works Untitled and ca. 1980-1999


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