110. The Intersection of Art and Activism

In yesterday's post, I wrote an open letter to Elaine Welteroth, editor of Teen Vogue. I mentioned how I had the opportunity to sit in on a Teen Vogue panel to witness a conversation about the intersections of art and activism with the following speakers: Yara Shahidi (star of the hit, Emmy-award winning ABC show Blackish), Rowan Blanchard (star of the show Girl Meets World), Grace Dunham (writer and activist), and Elaine, editor of Teen Vogue. 

 Elaine Welteroth, editor of Teen Vogue

Elaine Welteroth, editor of Teen Vogue

 Yara Shahidi, star of  Blackish

Yara Shahidi, star of Blackish

  photo credit: APP Photography   From left to right: Rowan Blanchard, Yara Shahidi, and that same big speaker.

photo credit: APP Photography

From left to right: Rowan Blanchard, Yara Shahidi, and that same big speaker.

I actually didn't know this event was taking place until the last minute. The hubby and I were sitting in Kerbey Lane for round two of French Toast triangles and scrambled eggs, when we began looking for meaningful events to attend on a Sunday. Luckily, Twitter answered. Elaine tweeted about the "Art and Activism" discussion occurring at Space 24 Twenty which, lucky for us, was on the same street. 

  photo credit: APP Photography

photo credit: APP Photography

The day was chilly. I'd seen the forecast a few days earlier but totally underestimated the possible frigidity. Yes, people. It can get cold in Texas despite what you might've thought. I could tell by the number of shorts I saw and the folks shivering in them. And, it was cold to me, too. My toes were foolishly exposed and my sun dress should have been exchanged for a pair of sweats. But fortunately, there was hope. As soon as I arrived at the gates to Space 24 Twenty, I was greeted(?) at the gates by a masked human (I'm sure the person was human), and I spotted it: an interesting looking fire pit.

  photo credit: APP Photography   Teen Vogue freebies 

photo credit: APP Photography

Teen Vogue freebies 

Color me excited. I waited by the stage eagerly. I grabbed a few freebies, two teen vogue magazines, a pen, and a mini-journal from Urban Outfitters. I scanned the sizable crowd wondering how in the world the place wasn't packed to capacity. Did folks not know who was in the building? I guess not. Besides, I didn't even know about the event until the last minute.

Although the chilled air brought goosebumps on my arms, it didn't stop me from feeling the warmth of the atmosphere. People gathered for meaningful conversations was enough to keep me cozy.

Then the panel arrived. They spoke about:  

What it means to be an activist

Using art as activism

How to stay "woke"

What makes us angry

Supporting marginalized voices

Ushering in fresh, young progressive voices

Having a platform to express the complexities of generation

Listing the things they are currently reading, listening to, and watching


I left after about an hour or so because I had to make my way back to Houston, Texas, but I can tell you that I did have a few takeaways.

For one, I realize how incredibly important it is to use your platform to elevate others.

There are many people who are operating in their gift/craft/talent, but some are not necessarily using their platform to inspire, motivate, encourage, and uplift other people. One of the most disheartening and unfortunate things that I've seen over the years is how some celebrities, or others with a substantial base, shy away from controversy, activism, or current events because they don't want to "turn people off" or "make their base uneasy."

When we realize our purpose is not to achieve things just for our own comfort, but to use our gifts to serve others, we'll begin to realize that it's precisely our platform that enables us to give voice to the voiceless and make moves to incite change. Everyone won't understand that, and that's okay. It's called weeding out the ones that are not in tuned with our spirit.

Secondly, I was reminded about the significance of art.

I think some people don't explore their creative passions because they believe it won't pay, it's not important enough, or that it will not be respected. That's not true. Art has a way to shape our world, influence our perspectives, and strengthen us as human beings. Whether it is through our music, writing, films, podcasts, paintings, etc., our art connects us mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in ways that are life-changing and symbolic.

This is why listening to Solange Knowles's "Don't Touch my Hair" or watching Ava Duvernay's Queen Sugar penetrates deep. It teaches life, it reaches life, and it inspires us to keep moving forward despite life's challenging circumstances.

Third, I understood that activism doesn't have to be some huge movement.

Activism doesn't have to be a massive march or rally, moving a crowd to a promise land. It is possible to use our art to incite political and social change in various ways.

Activism can simply be one person writing insightful research articles, penning a novel about a social issue that young people can relate to, or singing songs of a better tomorrow. Once we realize that we can join in on important conversations and be a part of the action in our own way, we'll realize that our contributions -- no matter how great or small -- are worthy. 

Lastly, the panel forced me to remember how some of our youngest populations are more inclined to incite change.

I think many older folks underestimate young people a lot (I see this as a teacher, too). Many young people are incredibly insightful, mature, curious, bold, and willing to be the change they want to see. It's funny when young people are boxed into a one-size fits all description of being distracted teens and young adults who only care about texting, apps, posting selfies on Instagram, and listening to "trash" music.

The reality is, many times the people making the loudest noise and shaking up things all around the world are young people in grade schools, college campuses, young entrepreneurs, artists, bloggers, and the list goes on. It's time for us to bridge the gaps and connect with each other across generations. We have the power to change the world in which we live, and young people are included in the conversation.

I really enjoyed the Teen Vogue conversation, and it is my hope that I'm able to attend more similar events. Who knows, maybe I'll get to be involved in some way, shape, or form. What have I said on this blog before? You have to speak things into existence. You have to believe that your goals and aspirations can actually come true. Keep speaking life and keep changing lives.

Until next time....