Does art have to say something?
That’s been the question floating around in mind for quite a while now. As a creative person (i.e. a person allergic to deadlines) I like to think that everything I do is unique and free of reason. We’re all mini geniuses, just itching to release ourselves upon the great wide world, right? But, what if we allowed ourselves as more than just …well, ourselves? Here’s what I mean: every step we take forward, or backward, can have a lasting effect on the world around us. Forget to turn on the coffee pot and your day is off, you forget an important task, and your team at work is held back. On the flip side, imagine if you hadn’t forgotten the coffee?
I think the same logic applies to art; what we do ripples out, whether we’re ready for it or not. Many times we (I) think of art as a means to an end. If I can get great at the thing, then the thing will bring me freedom, i.e. money, and I’ll never have to struggle again. But, again, what if we thought of our endeavors as a means to create more ripples? Sure, none of us live in a reality totally divested from capitalism. However, I do think it’s possible to create from a space removed from merely trying to become famous.
Whether we like it or not, the art we make does something to people. It inspires, it pushes the viewer to ask questions, it can make the recipient feel lighter or uncomfortable. So, if it’s going to say something, why not lean into it and work with a little intention?
I pose this question to hold up art in the medium of film that has done something – said something – to me. From the 100+ years of Black performers on screen, I have learned to be a little bolder in what I make. I have been moved to infuse a bit of myself into every project, so that when I’m gone there’s something left behind that mattered.
Without further ado – here are the performances by Black people who meant something to me. Enjoy!
Spooky. Open. Ready. Bold.
That’s how I’m feeling right now, as I greet the arrival of my favorite season. In all fairness I’m a few weeks early for Fall, but why wait? I don’t delight in the coming of amber leaves and chilled air for the drinks and fashion; I come alive in this season due to the magical potential just visible around the corner.
Historically, this season has represented harvest and abundance. It’s a time for reaping (in the food sense not the dead sense) and joy. Fall is when we get to rest and rediscover what we live for, be it family, or something else. Fall is a reminder to prepare ourselves not only for the chill but the thaw. There’s still life to live on the other side.
Today I wanted to share some images that capture what I’m feeling, how I’m living, and what I value: love, fear, beauty, life, death, sustenance, and the unknown. All push us forward and give us perspective. What is inspiring you? Who will you become on the other side?
Making things, sharing your voice, putting yourself out there is – to put it bluntly- hard as hell. It hurts, even in the best of times, to make yourself available to the world at large. Sure, the world at large may never see your practice doodles, or hear the way you stutter over a monologue, but the thought, the fear, of being heard can hold us back from creating something beautiful. Now, faced with the worst of times, that fear feels compounded in me. I needed a push. I needed to know – to hear – that it’s ok to want to make something even if it isn’t always great.
Creators just are. Creators are always creators, no matter what time it is in the world around them. I’m so thankful to have access to some folks who are putting themselves out there every single day and changing lives in the process through their art and audacity. Here’s what they said about why they create:
Hello friends! I’ve (finally) released a new video on my YouTube channel. Please take care and be sure to check out the links in the description for places to make donations and show support in these dangerous times. Black people, particularly Black women and Black Trans people, are at the highest risk.
Also, be sure to tune into the Written in Melanin YouTube channel every Tuesday at 12 PM CST for a live discussion between myself and C.M. Lockhart about all things books, stories, and creation!
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Black Lives Matter.