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Monday, September 8, 2014


rt. What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.  Art is healing.  Art is revolutionary.  Art is therapeutic.  Art is game changing.  Art is educational.  Because art is all of these things and more, it is the perfect medium for social change.  But with so many uses where does one start when it comes to using art to create change and establish justice for all?  

Figuring this all out is exactly what I have been up to since last month - social justice planning, sitting on panels for social justice, attending community meetings, participating in social justice for art teacher training, having social justice conversations, talking to teens to see how they feel about what's been going on, talking with other artists about the role their art can play in change, talking to my white friends about race and equity, reading books, and volunteering for a friend's documentary project.  I have been priming the wheels of social justice all over Seattle.   

A few weeks ago, I tweeted a quote I came across regarding social justice:

Art is definitely something you do but is it something you think about too.  Lately, I have been thinking about what I can do with my art to bring about social change.  I even designed a social justice art camp for teens around this very topic.

31at31 7 ways to ignite your inner social justice art activist

Currently, I am reformatting this concept as a workshop that will arm our youth with the power of creative expression for social change.  Just in case your brain was packed with political pondering too, here are 7 WAYS TO IGNITE YOUR INNER SOCIAL JUSTICE ART ACTIVIST in no particular order.  

#1 Meet Beverly Naidus (randomly) at an art walk

Last weekend, my art ace and I purchased a vendor booth for the Rainier Beach Art Walk on what felt like the hottest day ever for September.  Luckily for me, having my mouth wide open like a golden retriever trying to stay cool masked my utter shock and awe as Beverly Naidus strolled up to our art booth.  

In case you've locked yourself in an dusty art studio somewhere and haven't managed to keep in the know, Beverly Naidus is a BOSS when it comes to implementing art for change.  

Her book, Arts for Change: Teaching Outside the Frame is an excellent reference for stirring up things for the better.  If you don't have the patience to set up booths all over Seattle art walks hoping to run into Naidus, buying her book is the next best thing for some social justice inspiration.
You know I had to take a picture with her.  She even said she liked my Afro Jazz art, you guys!  I was just so happy to be in the right place at the right time.  My art ace actually took classes with Naidus at the University of Washington, Tacoma.  So they know each other.  I would love to take a class just for fun.  I am NOT trying to go back to school any time soon, okay?!  BUT, for a professor like Naidus...

Me, Beverly Naidus and my art ace, Shurvon Haynes.

 #2 Explore Constructions of Cultural Identity through Art

This is a fun one.  Dissect all of the labels society has given you: male/female; black/white; rich/poor etc..., and then create an artistic narrative of who you really are.  Of course this list is way longer, but you get my point.  Who or what do you identify as?  How does this differ from how the media portrays your particular "labels"?  

Sometimes, I identify as the color blue.  What do I mean by that?  I associate the color blue with sadness and deep contemplation.  Lately, all of the political shenanigans have given me the blues.  If I were to paint a self portrait it would be a wave crashing against some jagged rocks...similar to the ones I saw in Cape Coast, Ghana near the slave castles dungeons.  My ancestors are those crashing waves.

In my latest work called Afro Jazz, I am exploring and seeking to contribute to the narrative that black lives matter. By mixing photography, graphic design, African textile, ink and paper, I have created a mixed media collage technique that pieces together my personal take on the beauty contained in "blackness" or being "black." 

#3 Go to a Pecha Kucha near you

Sounds like a funny name but it is AWESOME.  Pecha Kucha is a Japanese word for "chit-chat."  I actually have to practice the pronunciation in my head before saying it out loud.  It is a presentation format that takes place in a community where you get 20 slides that appear for 20 seconds each for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  

I went to my first Pecha Kucha in Seattle hosted by the Seattle People of Color Salon (SPoCS) at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) a few weeks ago to hear a dear friend and brilliant journalist, Nourisha Korrine Wells, present on the history leading up to Ferguson.  I had no idea her hometown was so close to Ferguson, Missouri.
There were many other brilliant presenters as well.  I left that night feeling inspired to act.  BONUS: Join me, as I follow the presenters listed below on Twitter to keep up to date on all of their latest efforts to change the world:  

Find out more about Pecha Kucha.  The topics vary depending on what's going on in the community and/or the world.  It is a great place to interact with the thinkers in your community or those who have something to contribute to the conversation.  Go to a session first and then perhaps, you will be the one presenting! 

#4 Buy a ticket to London of all places...

I don't know about you but London is NOT a city that immediately comes to mind when thinking of inspiration for social justice.  But that is exactly what should come to mind, at least for the Disobedient Objects Art Exhibition currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  This exhibition examines the role objects play in protest from makeshift gas masks constructed from discarded plastic bottles to inflatable cobblestones to hinder the police!  Click the link in the tweet to see the exhibit highlights.   

#5 Write some Poetic Justice (as opposed to just watching the movie)

Marcus Leslie, a fellow artist friend led a poetry for justice workshop at my social justice art camp last month.  He helped us ease into the poetry writing process by having us start with a favorite line from a song that best described who we were.  After several different exercises we all wrote poems on the topic of white privilege, the school to prison pipeline, and stereotypes.  I have included my poem below.  Keep in mind that I do NOT identify as a poet so be kind (lol).

They said they had all the privilege and I had none.
So I wrote my own permission slip.
Now, I have some.
They said they wanted all the privilege but I could have a little.
So I went straight to the Source – I cut out the middle.
They said they needed all the privilege…
But I interrupted before they could finish:
I know who I AM and guess what?


The Black Arts Movement which spanned about a decade included poetry as one of its main forms to support the movement's self defined narrative of what it meant to be black and "Black Power."  Here is a short guide to the Black Arts Movement that may spark your poetic flow.  To see an outline of significant happenings during that time check out this Black Arts Movement Timeline.

#6 Watch a documentary

Better yet produce your own social justice documentary but NOT for the money.  There is no money from what I've heard.  I suppose you could write grants and raise the money online but your first focus should be the "why."  Why produce a documentary?

I've found that the best reason is to amplify the voices of those who society has silenced.  Find a topic that you're passionate about or one you think more people should know about and break out that video camera.  

Nowadays, our phone game is so sick, that a camera phone can capture good enough footage to get the point across.  A few weeks ago I agreed to film my friend speak about disabilities and diversity at a college.  She handed me her iphone and I hit record.  It will suffice for clips to add to her overall project.
There are so many issues that need to penetrate the mainstream and interrupt the daily routine of consumerism and selfies.  My friend chose a topic that is personal to her and what she experiences everyday as one living with Tourette's Syndrome (TS).   The biggest thing I have learned from my friend is that no two symptoms of TS are alike.  The typical cussing one thinks of when one thinks of TS is not that common.  TS can manifest in all different kinds of ways.  You will have to watch her documentary when it comes out for more info.  It will open your eyes... 

For the love all things meaningful, get out there and start filming.  Start interviewing.  Who cares if aspiring filmmakers make 80 jillion docs a year?!  There's room for more.  Yours could be that one that changes the game and flips the script.  While I'm talking, I should get started on one of my own...

#7 Get your life internet together

Stay up to date with what's going on in the world.  One of my favorite sites to peruse the latest happenings via topic/category is Alltop.  Check out this great picture slide I came across on various examples of art for social change.

Do you have an idea for a documentary?  Have you been thinking about what you can do to contribute to social change for the better?  What issues really get you fired up?  

Tell me all about it in the comments.   Hit the "SUBSCRIBE" button up top for art related updates, art discounts and event invitations both virtual and live.  At the very least I hope you are inspired to share this post with a friend or 5, who might be in the middle of changing the world.



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