27 Jan Art + Activism = Artivism
By MALIK HENRY | CoCo Communications Coordinator
Artivism can be defined as the strategic use of art and activism to invoke emotion into the heart of a society in need of social change. Community Coalition has utilized Artivism to activate our community members in building people power which leads to progress. Whether it be murals, music, or exhibits, CoCo’s art has helped elevate our needs, demands, campaigns, and initiatives in South LA. For example, coCo has recently used its Artivism to showcase its vaccine efforts and provide healing spaces for community members who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
For decades, America has downplayed the intrinsic value of the art created by Black and Brown people. Through activism, we can unlearn the notion that our ancestors’ art contributions are not as significant as others or are deemed as more primitive. Artivism is our way to fight back against this false narrative. Artivism illustrates a history of violence through images or other artistic expressions but is intended to remain completely nonviolent during its demonstration. The Black Arts Movement from 1965 to 1975 was conceived out of the Civil Rights Movement that created social and legislative change through art and direct action.
More than 50 years later, Artivism is still thriving and can be recognized in the work of poets, musicians, muralists, recording artists, photographers, and many more. It was heard through the moving words of young poet Amanda Gorman during President Joe Biden’s inauguration. It was felt during the mass demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. It can be admired as you drive through our community via large murals on the sides of buildings, honoring the lives of Trayvon Martin and Nipsey Hussle.
In a time when artists are branding their own influence, they are also stepping up their roles and using their power. American singer-songwriter Nina Simone once described in an interview what she believed the role of a creator, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I choose to reflect on the times and the situation in which I find myself. That to me is my duty.”
With the recent global protests for social justice, artists from South LA were reminded that if they are to have a role in Artivism, they must express their stories, experiences, and community to help spread awareness of the need for social change. Community Coalition’s Art & Culture Director Glauz Diego says, “It is critical that artists and creatives have a seat at the table. Artists are uniquely positioned to leverage their creative expressions to challenge social norms, spark new ideas in culture and politics, inspire radical joy, and imagine the potential of our communities. Their art gives voice to millions with the stroke of a brush, beat of a drum, click of a shutter, or the wordplay on paper or in a spoken word performance.”