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Joseph Washington Beckles

4/29/1951 - 9/18/2005
Los Angeles, CA

A richly productive and creative life of pure love, passion and spirit.


Joseph Washington Beckles was born to Ongel and Vincent Beckles on April 29, 1951 in Kingston, Jamaica. As a young boy, he and his siblings Frederick, Denise, Carol and Carl moved to New York to join their parents who resided in the borough of Brooklyn.

In Brooklyn, New York, Joseph attended Bushwick High School, where he studied, ran track, became graduating class president and met his future wife, Johan Nairne.

He went on to attend Lincoln University for one year and was introduced to the art of sculpting wood. He completed his undergrad studies at Brooklyn College, graduated, cum laude, in early childhood education and fine arts. For several years he nurtured the fresh minds of preschoolers as a dedicated teacher at a local day care center.

In the late 1970's, Joseph, Johan and their daughter, Naima, moved to Los Angeles. In 1979 Joseph and Johan were married amidst family and friends at their home on Budlong Avenue. Soon after, they were blessed with the birth of their son, Yusef Samuel.

Joseph began his career in Los Angeles as the director of an early childhood center. He later moved on to the Gas Company, where he formed many lasting friendships.

Joseph's calling was as an artist. For 25 years, he worked with wood using the European hammer and chisel as well as integrating the West African tool called adz. Ten years ago Joseph shifted to a new medium, no longer releasing forms from wood but creating them from steel. Joseph's work has been exhibited and is collected across the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, Jordan, and in Senegal.

Whatever the medium or method, he said that the "process of creating" was the driving force behind his work. He stated, "I believe that the only thing I can take with me are the memories in life. Everything else that I create is something I have to offer humanity and my community."

Joseph's devotion to his community extended to the many artists he mentored and befriended. This was exemplified when he organized "The Big Shoot", a group photograph of a great number of prominent artists of African decent in Southern California. In 2001, Joseph again united the Los Angeles artist community when he and artist Jane Castillo curated EYE-SPEAK, an exhibit bridging the exciting work of many African-American and Latino artists.

Joseph was a loving and devoted husband, father, uncle and son. He made his transition from this earth life to an eternal life on his fathers birthday, September 18, 2005 at 4:55 am. His surviving family members are his mother, Ongel Beckles, his siblings Frederick Beckles, Denise Beckles Smith, Carol Beckles and Carl Beckles, his daughter Naima, his son Yusef, and his wife Johan. He leaves a host of nieces, nephews, family and loving friends.

Hollywood Forever