On Monday morning, with the majority of America and the rest of the world, I woke up to hear about the atrocity in Las Vegas. I turned on the news to see crying faces and heard the videos replay over and over again of the gunshots ringing out. All day I watched as the news reports were updated and I felt numb, caught in between wanting desperately to help and knowing there wasn’t much I could do right then.
Ultimately, I had to go about my day and as I laid down that I evening I cried. Not only for the victims of Las Vegas and their families, but for all the victims of what seems to be a never ending wave of senseless crimes happening over and over again in this country and across the world.
I’ve never been one to get very political on my blog or online in general and I don’t plan on changing that much. If my experiences and observations have taught me anything, it’s that digging into disagreements with strangers on the internet is not the way forward for change.
But today, I want to talk about why artists and creatives are so desperately needed right now, and how we can be a vehicle for the changes we want, and need, to see.
Author Toni Morrison reminded creatives during a group talk, that “art is dangerous”.
I want to remind us all that art is dangerous. I want to remind you of the history of artists who have been murdered, slaughtered, imprisoned, chopped up, refused entrance. The history of art, whether it’s in music or written or what have you, has always been bloody, because dictators and people in office and people who want to control and deceive know exactly the people who will disturb their plans.
And those people are artists. They’re the ones that sing the truth. And that is something that society has got to protect. But when you enter that field, no matter whether that’s Sonia’s poetry or Ta-Nehisi’s rather startlingly clear prose, it’s a dangerous pursuit. Somebody’s out to get you. You have to know it before you start, and do it under those circumstances, because it is one of the most important things that human beings do.
-Toni Morrison, June 2016
No matter your creative medium, as an artist, you have the power to give voice to change. You can create something that moves people forward, that unites them in these difficult times and makes a difference. And it is at times dangerous, and you will meet people who disagree with your message and want to stop you. Do not forget that, as Morrison points out, artists are people who can disturb the plans of those who seek to divide us.
We as creatives cannot let them scare us. We have to stand together and fight now more than ever.
Raise your voices, your pens and your brushes and create the message of change.
Many of you will read this and wonder what exactly it is I do to be a part of this artist force for change I’m talking about. I will be the first to admit that even as an artist and writer myself, I don’t always know what to do. My regular watercolors of yoga poses, cute animals and floral designs aren’t making any Banksy like statements. Often times I get caught up in the struggle of making a living at this and forget that there is so much more to what I can do than make a successful online store.
And although my paintings aren’t political in nature, for me, there is something else that I hope to achieve with my art. It is my hope that, for even a small moment, someone who is viewing my work or discussing it with me gets a few moments of relief. Art can make huge and instrumental changes, it can be the voice for a social justice movement, and it can also provide much needed reassurance and happiness to individuals. We can create a place for people to turn to when they need a moment of clarity or an even an escape for a time.
Roaming local art museums and galleries has been a solace for me because it is a reminder of the beauty that humans can create. I urge all creatives, the writers, painters, poets, photographers, musicians and so on, who don’t feel they can create political art, to go out and create more beauty. Let’s flood the channels of social media and technology with love and hope. But do not forget we must give support to those creatives who ignite the movements and bring awareness to the issues. I firmly believe there is a place for all artists, and that we need all of us to step up and join together.
If you are not an artist, don’t forget that there are things we can all (and should) do to create change and be a part of these movements. Be informed, do research and be an active member of your local communities. There is always something out there that can be done to make a positive change in your own neighborhood. Stay informed on larger issues, vote, call your representatives and demand change from the political system.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe our true strength will be found fighting online in the comments section of an article. It is by going out and being active members of society that we find our collective strength. The sharing of ideas and beliefs, information and resources, and even participating in constructive arguments, through social media and technology is extraordinarily important in that it can reach people across the country. It can be used as a vehicle so that the public voice is heard and our united efforts are seen.
But we cannot treat it as the end of the road, because it is the accumulation of all our actions that results in true change, not just what we say online.
I will continue to choose hope over fear, love over hate and the beauty we humans can create over the ugliness of those who seek to destroy these things. I will keep writing, keep painting and keep sharing these with the goal of creating even the smallest bubble of good in the world, and I hope that you will join me.
If you would like to join efforts to help those suffering after the Las Vegas shooting, please check out the following links for fundraising and blood donations:
The verified Go Fund Me by Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas, to provide relief and financial support to the victims and families: https://www.gofundme.com/dr2ks2-las-vegas-victims-fund
You can donate money to the Southern Nevada chapter of the Red Cross. This money isn’t going directly the victims of the shooting, but will help fund all that goes into the work this chapter of the Red Cross is doing in the aftermath: http://www.redcross.org/local/nevada/southern-nevada/ways-to-donate
And of course, if you’re near the Las Vegas area you can donate blood like thousands of others have been since Monday morning: https://www.bustle.com/p/can-i-donate-blood-to-las-vegas-victims-heres-how-you-can-help-2743107