Art + Activism: S. Rasheem

S. Rasheem is another artist and journalist out here using her platform to change the narrative around communities of color! Her online initiative: the Counter-Narrative Show, which takes place on Facebook live, allows space for Black people and communities of color to create their own narrative to combat with what is portrayed of them in the mass media.

Rasheem recently invited me to be part of her Black Artists Matter panel discussion with an illustrious group of Black artists and art administrators in which we discussed some really important topics. We talk about the term “fine art” and how that relates to Black artists in particular (since art created by Black artists has been overlooked for many years)... We also talked about whether or not we felt that representing Black artistry in our spaces was ever a burden - in which we all adamantly said that it is a PRIVILEGE to work with and promote Black artists, as well as being catalysts for our culture in spaces in which we are a minority.


Platforms such as the one Rasheem has created are hugely important for Black artists and creatives to have because access to resources, such as the press, is not only an issue for artists, but it is a larger issue to Black society as a whole. Statistics show that almost 80% of newsroom workers are White, so it is imperative for Black people to have their own journalistic outlets and that is exactly what Rasheem has created. Not only that, she has made it a point to connect and promote Black professionals with one another as a way to pass along resources.


Here is the interview:


1. How do you use art/platform as activism?


I recently rebooted an online initiative called the Counter-Narrative show . The goal

of the show is to provide a space for participants that will allow for a narrative that

is counter to the rhetoric about communities of color from one of deficiency to one

that celebrates them and put them at the center of their own critique. Additionally it

seeks to increase cultural humility, compassion, and knowledge of how different

demographical intersections are socially stratified, and how those stratifications

impact lived-experiences (http://thecounternarrativeshow.com/).


Off-line I identify as a Womanist Artists. My art encourages a critical examination of

society and culture through the lens of lens of race, gender, sexuality and class. My

art centralizes the lives and experiences of marginalized populations. There isn’t

much separation between my art, my passions, my politics and how I choose to get

paid.


2. Why is it important for you to use art/creative endeavors for activism?


I think folks should use whatever “their thing” is in the service of whatever good

they wish to contribute to the world. Have you ever fulfilled a goal, only to realize

that it didn’t fulfill you? I’ve never had an issue with fulfilling a goal. The real key for

me is to create or contribute something that fulfills me. Once I realize that about

myself I decided that if it doesn’t evolve me, then it won’t involve me. And in this

way I’m using me in the collective to mean me and mine.


3. How would you encourage or suggest other creatives use their art/artistic

talents for activism?


I think Octavia Butler had it right when she said “All that you touch you Change. All

that you Change changes you.” I would say be intentional about what you touch and

the change that you want to bring about externally seek to also bring about that

internally. I would tell also tell them that they owe to their god-self to become

everything that they’ve ever dreamed of and to contribute to the world in a way that

will somehow leave it a little better than how they found it. That’s what our Black

ancestors did for us.


4. What are some ways to support you and/or a cause that you are passionate

about?

It would be helpful if I had access to a bigger platform, increased opportunity to

share my art and message with the world, funding to be able to create without

worrying about bills.


I can break it down even simpler than that. If you have a gallery, let me have a show

there. If you have money, pay for my studio cost for a year. If you have a valuable

artist retreat that I can’t afford offer me a scholarship. If you have resources of any kind that can help me increase access, opportunity and equity for me … then do it,

offer it, and share it.


Instead of supporting a Black artist directly, many times I run into people who would rather support a white-led organization that in turn supports Black artists.It’s

really not that hard to support Black artists. We’re accessible on all the social media

platforms. Whatever the person, place, things, funding source etc. that you feel like

every artist should have, then supply it.


If you have access, opportunity or means and you are in the arts, do this small

exercise. Think about 5 things that as a creative you just cannot do without. Write

them down on a sheet a paper. I mean literally write them down. Then take about 5

minutes to think, if you had to do without 2 of them which 2 would you sacrifice?

Then cross them off the list, and I mean literally go through the physical action of

crossing them off. Sit there for a moment with the pain of not having those 2

things…. And decide that you will give an artist those top 3 things that you couldn’t

bring yourself to cross off and be grateful that for you this is just an intellectual

exercise but for many of us it is real life.


Rasheem is one of those people that know everybody! She walks the walk and talks the talk. I have so much respect for her and the work she does. Be sure to follow her Instagram at: @ArtByRasheem.

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