(And the Art That Inspires Initiative)
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department while 3 others stood by. The majority of his assault and murder was captured on camera, and it’s painful to watch. In the wake of his murder, protests began throughout the city that following day, and spread across the nation quickly. In the days following this event, a flame was sparked in America. On June 2nd, CNN shared a graphic during their broadcast that showed protest activity in all 50 states, and other countries. When I saw this, I was really surprised. All 50? When’s the last time that happened? Call it what you want: riots, looting, protests, chaos, a revolution. But the Black Lives Matter movement and the call to be an activist has now become mainstream, and it’s time to be more engaged than we’ve ever been.
George Floyd isn’t the first Black individual to be murdered by a product of the White supremacist state we live in. When I was 10 years old, Trayvon Martin was killed by a man who took it upon himself to be a vigilante of some sort. When I was 12, Tamir Rice was murdered for just holding a toy gun. Tamir was 12 too. And they weren’t the firsts either. Rodney King was beaten in 1991. Emmett Till was lynched in 1955. I could go on for so long naming names, sharing stories. But the bleakest part to me is, we don’t even know all of their names.
If we want to do something about what we see happening over and over again, it’s up to us to enact that change. I see us all posting on social media, sharing infographics and stories. That’s a great thing, truly. I want to see my Non-Black followers and people I follow caring about this. But I’m not content. Not yet. Why are we thanking celebrities for posting a black screen? Why are people apologizing for taking movie roles away from Black people after the movie was filmed? Why are people refusing to boycott brands and CEOs that hold harmful ideologies? The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days. The bus service was essential to so many people, yet the statement they needed to make was even more important. The Bus Boycott is proof that it’s possible to make a change and put our actions where our mouths are. So why aren’t we all doing it?
This post is not me intending to bash people, because that’s counterintuitive. I’m writing this post to show that this isn’t a passing fancy. It’s the continuation of a long fight that’s not ending anytime soon. Angela Davis once said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti racist.” It’s time that every single one of us stands up against racism, engages in action however we can, and spreads the word. I took part in this justice in action this weekend in my hometown of Oakland, California.
A group of youth activists that included Natalie Peter, Sophia Yau-Weeks, Brooke Johnson, and Tyler Page came together and organized an arts fair with vendors that donated some or all of their proceeds towards funds to support Black lives and businesses. Of course I was excited to attend, and I was even more excited to be able to help out with Natalie’s booth. During the fair, I walked around and asked some of the vendors why they were out here, and why they felt that being an activist was important to them. I began my questions with Natalie. Her booth included tee shirt printing, as well as selling premade clothing and earrings.
“I grew up half White and half Asian, and have faced a degree of racism and prejudice. A bit of alienation because of my race…but I realized, because of my light skin tone, I white pass. It’s my job in a position of privilege to uplift those voices that have been silenced.” -Natalie Peter
Olivia Yau Weeks and Jasmine Robinson were working a booth with family and friends that included headbands, earrings, and scrunchies for sale.
“It’s more of a human issue than political. There’s so much that has to be changed within the system, and if you don’t do anything about it, it won’t change. White supremacy is just stupid. So many things come from Black culture, you can’t take the culture and not love the people. We’re the future, we can vote now, it’s important to speak up.” -Olivia Yau-Weeks
“I’ve noticed so many people have said they’re ultra conservative or a Trump supporter, but then they hear these voices and they realize that they don’t resonate as much as they thought. If people aren’t speaking out, these people won’t realize the harm they’ll cause.” -Jasmine Robinson
Nicky Kim was working a tee shirt booth along with her friend Melody, who was selling handmade necklaces.
“As we go off to college in different parts of the country, it’s important to leave a lasting impact on our hometowns so we can return back to a place that we’re proud of and comfortable in. It’s incredible in the middle of a pandemic that we can devote our efforts and energy into this movement. We’re so lucky to be in the Bay Area, there’s so much to do and engage in. It’s important to keep showing up and sticking together. Show up in person, online. Put your money where your mouth is.” – Nicky Kim
Lucy Barretto was working her booth of prints and stickers. (Side note, her stickers were of her dad’s design “Brown Jesus”, which I loved.)
“It’s important to me to be out here because all the other endeavors you go through in life aren’t gonna matter if there’s no justice and action, because there won’t be fulfillment. There’s so much pessimism right now, and that plays into white supremacy. Saying ‘Oh well, the worlds gonna burn’, that’s only gonna hurt darker people.” -Lucy Barretto
Further down the promenade, there were booths lining the sidewalk all the way to the street.
“Art and activism go hand in hand because to have inspiration for revolutions you need material to keep you inspired and focused. Oakland is the birthplace of this. We have all this opportunity to be active on social media but it’s not the same as sharing words and art. It gives people an opportunity to share…sometimes you can’t find the right words to say and expression is key. Creativity is key to having a community that relies on each other.” – @ Aquanettalashangelaboo (on instagram)
“I’m out here because I live and breathe activism. Growing up, I didn’t have a choice to look away, I had to be active. I’m pretty new to art, only about 3 and a half years. You have to choose action over inaction. You can do that in so many ways, but the important part is to be doing something. It’s so much easier to express to people how I’m feeling through an image…I can show them a piece and they’ll resonate in a way that words sometimes don’t.” -@ cherrymothahofgawd (on instagram)
I’m always proud to be from Oakland, but this made me feel an even stronger sense of the word. To know that I am surrounded by so many creative people who are prepared and excited to use their talents to make this world a better place is so amazing, and something that I cherish. I know the feeling of being helpless and unsure how your voice is going to change the world. But I’ve learned over time that you don’t need to something insanely extravagant to get your point across, but rather be a drop in a wave that will eventually become a tsunami. Just speaking up against harmful systems can influence the next person to speak out, and who knows how far that can go. You just have to do something. With that being said, support your local artists, remain engaged, and keep on the look out for ways to put your money where your mouth is!
Other artists included @ sourmilkbitch (prints and tees), @ LiletteJewels (jewelry), @ eji_org (vegan baking), @ roginspiration_ (clothing), @ jaylalorenapparel (clothing), @ artbybrooklyn, and many more. *all on instagram*