In the last half of 2014, protests against police brutality and entrenched racist policies in the United States made their mark across the country. Over the airways, in the streets and across digital media young black artists and cultural workers from the epicenter of the #BlackLivesMatter protests in Ferguson led the way with a myriad of creative responses.
As Sarah Hermes Griesbach, art educator and activist from Ferguson wrote, “Artists have been at the center of this movement. Artists of every sort. Including artists who never considered themselves as such.”
This shouldn’t be a surprise, since writers, painters, musicians, dancers and sculptors have frequently served societies by envisioning an alternative path, a previously undescribed landscape, a future potential. These visions can be mythical or reality-based, offering compelling hope and beauty. Their often relatively simple and nonviolent origins can tap an immense visceral power. Creative resistance also offers an outlet for rage that can be constructive, healing and positive, rather than destructive and escalating. In this day and age of cynical corporate media, creative protest can be “media-genic,” attracting even mainstream coverage of issues and delivering progressive framing if done well.