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Tue, 12.18.1945

James ‘Chip’ Thomas, Doctor and Artist born

James 'Chip' Thomas

*The birth of James "Chip" Thomas is celebrated on this date in 1945. He is a Black doctor and mural artist.

Dr. Thomas graduated from the Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College School of Medicine in 1983. He works in TONALEA, AZ, and two other locations and specializes in Family Medicine. Dr. Thomas is affiliated with Tuba City Regional Health Care.

Though a native of North Carolina, he moved to the Navajo Nation in 1987 to work as an Indian Health Services Physician, where he continues to work and live. I have taught myself black and white photography and worked in my homemade darkroom during this time. Two photographers who greatly inspired him were Eugene Richards and James Nachtwey, who he studied between 1992 and 1994.

Thomas took a leave from work for one year in 1992 to join four other cyclists as the Team Physician for a transcontinental African bicycle expedition. Our adventure took us from Africa's northernmost point (Bizerte, Tunisia), 12,000 miles, to the southernmost point (Cape Agulhas, South Africa). They covered the distance in 9 and 1/2 months. In the Fall of 1998, he returned to east Africa for three months. a few images from each trip are presented on his website, though the majority are from the Navajo nation.

Regarding his work in northern Arizona, Thomas said: "Working on the Navajo nation has proved to be one of the most difficult yet rewarding experiences of my life. I'm indebted to the Navajo people for the life lessons they've taught me". The images he presents are from his experiences over the last 15 years. His work is proof of the intersectionality between African America and Native America. As a member of the Justseeds Artists Co-operative, he uses the opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded, socially engaged artists. One can find his large-scale photographs pasted on the roadside, on the sides of houses in the northern Arizona desert, on the graphics of the Peoples Climate March, Justseeds, and 350.org carbon emissions campaign material.

Thomas was a 2018 recipient of a Kindle Project gift and, in 2020, was one of a handful of artists chosen by the UN to recognize the 75th anniversary of the UN's founding. Artists generate work that "contributes to the envisioning and shaping a more resilient and sustainable future. It is hoped that this work will amplify and accelerate the UN Global Sustainability Goals implementation with a focus on communities and climate action."

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