Robert “Kaki” McQueen, a popular and prodigious artist and musician in West Baltimore’s grassroots community died Jan. 26. He was 72.
McQueen was born in Baltimore to parents Wilbert and Nodia McQueen, Dec. 4, 1946. He was educated in the Baltimore City Public Schools, during this time he began to cultivate his self-taught artistic prowess.
He was drafted into the military in 1966 at age 19 and served a tour of duty in Vietnam. After his service in the military, McQueen returned to Baltimore, but began to travel around the United States. By 1970, he said he experienced an, “awakening.” “I became aware of my Creator, my God, the first artist. I decided to make art my life,” McQueen told Rudolph Lewis, in a post on, “ChickenBones A Journal,” which celebrates Black culture.
In the 1970’s he drove across the country in a Volkswagen with a friend and stopped in cities including, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, before landing in California and traveling up and down the California coast. McQueen said he left artwork everywhere he traveled. After more traveling around the country and overseas, McQueen ultimately returned to Baltimore where he pursued his devotion to art as a multimedia artist, painting murals and portraits and crafting sculptures, most of which evoked themes of spirituality and Black liberation.
McQueen was also a prolific drummer, who was one of the founding members of the venerable “Druid Park Drummers,” founded in the 1970’s, who are still in the “Park” every Sunday practicing their craft and entertaining anybody who gathers around to listen and/or dance. On the Sunday after his death, a group of drummers played in the rain at the corner of Penn and North, to pay their respect to McQueen, a gifted artist, musician and local legend.
The funeral for Robert “Kaki” McQueen is Feb. 15, at the Wylie Funeral Home, 701 N. Mount St., in West Baltimore. The wake is at 10:00 a.m., and the service begins at 10:30 a.m. There will be a repast Feb. 15, 2:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m., at the Unity United Methodist Church, 1433 Edmondson Ave., in West Baltimore.