I have done a lot of crying this past week. Nearly everyday, I have cried, in unison, with the millions across the country who had shed tears of solidarity for the murders of our brothers Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, & John Crawford III. Not just at the senseless murders from the hands of police, but the constant backpedaling of the police department and their attempts to justify the brutal murders.
I have seen people speak up, I’ve heard conversations, and read online comments. All of which seem overwhelmingly familiar. Because they are. These are murders we’ve experienced time and time again, in different cities, cited under different “reasons,” but with the end result being the same, the police murdering one of our brothers.
I’ve struggled, as I have in the past, and as I am sure I will in the future, about what I can personally do to stop this from ever happening again. I’ve had lunch and late night discussions with teachers, friends and family members about what this means, about our part in all of it. In the past I’ve protested, made phone calls to government officials, literally traveled to Washington, DC to lobby with my congressional representative for an array of injustices across this nation, and yet none it seemed to matter. Wars continued to be wage, lives continued to be taken without a second thought and no punishment, and laws stayed the same, if not worsening. I’m not one of those people who simply throw my hands up and give up. As a firm believer in the concept that if you’re not apart of the those who are ending the oppression then you perpetuating it.
I cannot say that I have not been discouraged though. So recently, I’ve stepped back a bit, observing, reading, taking note, trying to find actions that make sense (at least to me) and are actually impactful. I scoured the internet to see what other people are doing. I saw several articles on the Root (I’m a huge fan of this website, the content is always good) about how to support if you’re a white ally. Though this doesn’t apply to me, it will be bookmarked because it’s a great reference for all the white people who want to be down. I also read articles about the need to become aware of our rights in regards to the police so that we can’t treated unfairly. And while these are extremely important skills to know, maybe civilians aren’t the ones who need to brush up on them, rather the police do. The whole time I read this article I thought “what’s the point of learning the proper protocol when the police shoot us in the back, it doesn’t matter how well versed one is in their constitutional rites when the police clearly do not give a fuck.
While having lunch with a former professor of mines, she talked about how she makes change through her art, about how her art pulls from the past to instill pride in people of the African diaspora today. Pride and admiration can be a powerful tool, and creating that is what she taken upon herself to manifest.
As artists, we must commit to our art because it becomes our voice. We are obligated to tell my/their/ our shared stories through our mediums because that it’s what we know best. I agree without a doubt, I still feel pangs of guilt, and though I know there are works that have set up the stage for incredibly transformative experiences, or at least provided an outlet when there was no other (spiritual hymns, various songs that became anthems during the black power movement, Capoeira ( a mixture of dance a& martial arts, which was derived from slaves who wanted to stay strong during enslavement so they created this “dance” to trick their masters, Pussy Riot, etc.). Yet, sometimes I feel like canvases and photographs are not enough. Not when we are being shot dead in the street, or put in chokeholds on the corner squeezing the life out of us. I come from a family or organizers and artists. It’s in my lineage, and expressing through art and writing comes natural for me. We all have to sure our gifts that we apart of our most innate sense of self, because it’s what we are strongest in. When we harness our talents, we make the largest impact. I am stumbling through owning my art completely and using it as a weapon. By no means I am saying this should be our only means to disrupt and correct this broken system, but this is a start.