Who gets to make art.
This past weekend, a POC friend of mine invited me to attend an event by Making It Awkward, a student-run anti-Black racism group at the University of Windsor. Naturally, I gravitated towards the artists on the panel.
Rana Hamadeh, a Palestinian-Canadian artist and activist, shared her experience living between Toronto and the West Bank. She spoke about being arrested by Israeli soldiers on numerous occasions and the violence her and her family have endured. She also highlighted the way that art has the power to fight off the normalization of oppression.
Ravyn Wngz, a trans Black Lives Matter artist and activist, shared her experience using dance as an act of resistance and protest. She spoke about the way that the actions of Black Lives Matter are often misconstrued to make the demands of the group seem extreme and unreasonable. Ravyn also touched on the importance of prioritizing self-care on the way to dismantling systemic oppression.
Despite having vastly different creative practices and experiences, both artists reminded the audience of art’s ability to humanize us. To connect us to our history—as oppressors and/or the oppressed—and to each other.
I came away from the night thinking more about who gets to make art and about art’s power to shift cultural narratives and provide avenues for healing and reconciliation to take place. My friend and I talked afterwards about her plans to create a business where she can build inclusivity into the mandate, something that is lacking in her current workplace.
Later that day, I went to two different galleries—Library Street Collective and Reyes Finn—that were both featuring the work of Black and other POC artists. I spoke to one of the gallery owners at Reyes Finn about the gentrification of Detroit and the way that much of the street art in the city was created by people from out of town.
All around me were conversations about who gets to make art and about the barriers that POC specifically face along the way—from being in physical danger when creating their work to the need for more drastic representation in creative institutions are resisting this change in conscious and unconscious ways.
These conversations have got me thinking about the ways that I can do more as a white person to support POC artists and creators. I am carrying these thoughts and questions with me into this week as I focus my efforts on building out my coaching business in support of creatives doing their best work.
In the meantime, how do you actively include POC in the work that you do?