Photo by Quinn Rivenburgh
Ideas
Artistic Expression as a Radical Act
By Rashanda Freeman

Often I wonder if my limited time on earth lends itself to my optimism. I live and work in a liberal city, many of my closest friends are artists, and I have always felt the most generous love from my mother. So, I think it’s fair to say, I’ve experienced a certain level of blindness when it comes to how the rest of the world thinks and feels. This blindness completely failed me, but I can no longer sit idle and not acknowledge the injustices I now unfortunately know all too well.

I’ve had conversations with friends and colleagues about things we should be doing to build community during such a contentious political climate. Should we be attending more protests? How do we organize like-minded individuals? And a more terrifying thought, are we ready to hurt ourselves (or worse) in order to move the cause forward? After all, this isn’t an unrealistic question to raise. Consider several leaders of the Civil Right Movement: Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They were advocating for equality and ultimately paid with their lives.

But as we struggle for justice in these moments of terror and despair, I’m reminded of the beauty in artistic expression. We must hold tight to the various art forms that create healing. We must uplift the work of artists in our communities, find joy in our music, language, and art. If we don’t give ourselves permission to unapologetically deliver art through all its wonderful mediums we are giving power to the racist and misogynist.  

While I’m tired of being resilient and having to “go high, when they go low,” in this new political climate we must find ways to live truthfully and with purpose. Art gives the promise of something better. It connects us with people; instead of making us feel more alone.

The future of this Country, and how humans will interact in that future, is unknown. But art is a platform for change. It’s transformative and cuts deep. The next time everything seems dark or you’re feeling grief look to music, dance, painting, spoken word, and other artistic expressions for a glimpse of light .