Activist Vs Artist. Activist And Artist.

What is an activist?

  • An activist is anyone seeking to make change, evoke change, and be the change needed to make a difference for others first and then themselves. Activism at its purest always starts with the desire to help the people, it kindles a fire deep within others to join the vision of a better tomorrow and take action. 

What is an artist?

  • An artist is anyone who uses their gifts and abilities to ignite a feeling. If the saying “Art imitates life” is true, it is the artist who helps shape new perspectives and enhances already established perspectives on the various issues our society faces today. Whatever the topic or the issue, Nina Simone said, “An artists duty is to reflect the times.” Art brings you to a greater sense of consciousness, it either leaves you full or hungry, but never indifferent. 
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With these two definitions of activist and artist, there are slight differences however it is safe to say that both types of individuals have mostly similarities. Ultimately both parties use themselves to create some type of shift within something or someone, or at-least thats what I’ve found when researching and learning about the great activists and artists who have come before me. Legends such as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, Ruby Dee, Katherine Dunham, Max Roach, and Abbey Lincoln are just a few of the many whose artistry was seamless with their activism. They used their gifts and abilities to make change, evoke change, and be the change needed in a dangerous, racially charged world for others first, and then themselves.

So here are some questions, Can we confidently say that our biggest influencers today are artists while being activists at the same time? Do they even strike at that line? Especially with certain artists claiming racism doesn’t apply to them, they are no longer Black only American, or that the police brutality issues that our society faces are for the law to handle (cause we havin fun…we iced out…..we havin money…thats how we doin it *side eye*). 

Does the money and the wealth from the fame create stockholm syndrome and then in turn the messages that are sent out to the masses no longer convey anything meaningful? Not just through their talents but when asked about issues that plague our society? If the artist being asked about these issues chooses to ignore the questions and not say anything at all does that actually speak volumes about who he or she is?

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there are many artists who use their gifts and voice to speak up on social injustices. Thank God for artists like Lauryn Hill, Jessie Williams, Solange, Mos Def, Spike Lee, Talib Kweli, Ava Duvernay, and Yara Shahidi (the list goes on) who stay grounded in who they are and who at times make their ethnicity apart of their art. I understand that there are artists who specifically make it their intent to only produce conscious work or do a great job at balancing between the conscious world and being care-free. Every artist does not have to be extremely deep with the messages they send out into the world (I love a good track or movie that makes me forget about the worlds problems)  however I do believe that they need to stay in-tune with who they are which is important if what they do is for the people first and then for themselves. 

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Artists who forget who they are become delusional to an extent and from there begin to detach themselves little by little from reality while simultaneously dumbing down the people. One of the things that all of the elder artists (Ruby Dee, Katherine Dunham, Max Roach…..) that were mentioned earlier have in common is that they always stayed in tune with the times. Those artists saw themselves in people like you and I. They never saw a difference in the people that they were appealing to apart from themselves and knew that at the end of the day all of our struggles were the same; that is what made them activists and artists or artists who danced that fine line between activists as well. 

Do you think that more of the artists of today could be more active in being vocal on the problems we face as a society? 

Have the times that we live in now improved so much that we no longer need our biggest influencers to speak up?

Do you think that major artists who don’t use their gifts to be activists and strictly produce work that is for the most part un-relatable to the majority have lost a sense of self? Not in terms of escapism but in terms of delusion? Or that because there are a few differences between activist and artist, if the artist is not going to promote consciousness through their work they should at-least keep an activist mindset? 

Does the work of an artist without a revolutionary mindset undo the work of an activist? 

Can we say that if the artist stays grounded in who they are that is activism in itself? 

Rest In Power To Dick Gregory, The Perfect Example of Activist And Artist.

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Answer some of the questions listed and let me know who are some of your favorite activists and artists and how you feel on this topic?

Conscious, Culture, Art Always. 

Black Manhattan