Liberation & Juneteenth – Art Activism Challenge Recap

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It is no understatement to say that the past couple of months have witnessed the emergence of a powerful sense of urgency by so many young people to make incredible strides in transforming the very fabric of our society. The countless inhumane violations against our fellow human beings, our Black family and friends, have caused this country to enter a period of deep reflection on the longstanding racial injustice that has existed for centuries in essentially every aspect of American life.

Nevertheless, the tireless efforts and fearless examples of scores of Black youth have stood out as shining lights and beacons of hope amidst dismal social circumstances. When an individual arises to declare the truth and demand specific actions to address prevalent inequities, they are also commemorating nobility, culture, and worthiness. Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, is one such instance of preserving humanity, emphasizing freedom and achievement. This year witnessed a renewed awareness of and appreciation for such a long-standing and momentous occasion. At the core of this holiday sits the idea of liberation, a bright reality that, in its truest form, we seem to still be fighting for today.

During the month of June, #PassTheMicYouth called on Black youth to submit works of art centered around the theme of liberation in an effort to observe Juneteenth. Each submitted piece reflects a different facet of the larger concept of liberation, shedding light on some of the implications for further progress towards racial justice, as well as personal reflections of one’s current experience during such turbulent times.

Below is the complete collection of submissions gathered. Please enjoy!

Justice

Briana Benkin

“I would like to feature my video project with my spoken word poem, to support the Black Lives Matter movement and express the importance and urgency people need to acknowledge to take action however they can to spread awareness.”


Liberation of the Diaspora

Abigail Thomas

“My experience as a black American is deeply rooted to my family and friends. Having black friends from different background inspired this piece on how our collective history from America, Caribbean islands, South America and the African continent connect us. The Pan African movement to unify people of African descent and move forward without liberation is what this piece is about. We need to work together to bring about change.”

A black woman raises her arms towards a stary sky as birds fly from her arms.

Text reads:

“I choose to shine now
The ancestors of my past
Led me to this life

I won’t disappoint
My family heritage
So I must fight now

The future is soon
Freedom is for everyone
One diaspora”


Face Forward

Rachel M. James

“This painting is about how young black teens in America are raised and raised to do when stopped by the police. Where it is put your hands up, have no face expression, or not to move at all. Our struggle is to just stay alive. That’s why I put the words on the side. The bullets in the American Flag is to show how corrupt our nation is for the black community.”

A black face looks ahead. An american flag is behind the face with bullet holes. in the direction the face is pointing is written, don't shoot.

Text reads:

”Put your hands up
Don’t move
Don’t breath
Don’t blink
Don’t look threatening
Change your expression
I am human like you
Please don’t shoot
I have a family too”


Facing Tribulation

Mariam Matin

“My submission is an embroidered canvas art piece centered around the black lives matter movement and the involvement of police brutality. The black paint used is supposed to represent POC, and the thread correlates to this (black thread and white thread). Non-POC, represented by the white thread and background, have certain privileges, leading to a more peaceful life with less anxiety about simple things like going on a jog: as seen by the white threads in the black background. However, those of color existing in general, non-POC society (today’s world) are perceived as “lesser”, even though they aren’t. The police have used this prejudice against POC, and black people specifically, for centuries in order to unjustly incriminate them, harm them, and basically use race and ethnicity as a factor when it comes to justice. Finally, millions of civilians around the world have spoken about and protested against this injustice publicly: “No justice, no peace”. The police siren is reflected on the person’s neck, who is standing up in protest. This person represents our diverse society that will no longer tolerate injustice, taking a step towards a more progressive, unified, and unprejudiced future.
Face made from stitching
Text reads:
“No Justice
No Peace”

Her Awaken Eye

Francy Rawls

Colors can tell a story too the painted explain itself symbolizing 2020 vision in today’s chaos.”

Eye

Text reads”

“BLM”


Be Bold

Brinley Jordan

This art piece represents a colorful, abstract and bold black American woman. She is proud of her heritage and in her eyes sees a world of peace and equality! It shows how beautiful diversity is and how colorful it can be.”

Drawing of woman


At Last

Isabelle Silver

“My father can trace his family in the US to the 1600s. The Etta James song “At Last” was sung at my parents’ wedding. As an artist, I have been experimenting with digital drawing and wanted to combine these factors into honoring BLM in the best way I know how…through art.”

Hands in chains


In light of these wonderfully inspiring pieces, here are just a few questions we can be thinking about ourselves and among our friends:

Questions For Extended Dialogue

  1. What does a society that is truly liberated look like? What would that imply about the way individuals treat each other and the functions of our institutions?
  2. How does celebrating initial glimmerings of liberation and victory motivate, inspire, and propel people to act and fight for its full realization?
  3. How can we create spaces where honest conversations about the current conditions of our society, and their causes, can be discussed?