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  • LaShawndra Vernon

#MKEMovementArt was #DopeAsF*ck

Updated: Mar 3


Yeah, I put it in the title. I wanted to honor the consensus of panelists and I concur.

So last night I had the honor of holding conversation with my creative community. I moderated a panel on the impact of art in social justice movements. It was just what my soul needed.

In 2019, LIT partnered with Public Allies Milwaukee to have an art exhibition installed at Walker's Point Center for the Arts on January 17th - February 28th. They hosted a juried open call to black and brown artists with up to $1,500 in monetary prizes. Art has always influenced social movements. The hashtag has been a powerful way to unify a movement in content clouds. When the arts community gets together to create a content cloud you get a wide reaching cultural influence. That's exactly what #MKEMovementArt is all about. Elevating the artists that aren't as frequently seen, encouraging these artists to keep leaning into their gift so the world is LIT by your shine.

I believe we elevated that shine......

So Much Black Girl Magic!!!

We spend entirely too much time trying to isolate skills from creativity. Shouldn't we be cultivating creativity in order to strengthen skills in logic, reasoning and science? In today's society many young people are being discouraged from pursuing creative career paths. Systems drive our youth to commit to rigid paths for careers in order to be successful. It's not teaching them to be agile. As a long term professional I realize how frequently my creative talents saved me when things failed. Each person's success pattern is unique. Sharpening creative talents keeps us agile and able to adapt and navigate systems.

On to this panel. Right from the introductions every healing artist on this panel expressed that they are dope as fuck. And so it was, and so it is, and so it shall continue to be. Every one of them a conqueror, a warrior, a healer, a builder, a destroyer. The line up, Ed Wingard, Elio Garcia, Symphony Swan, Brit Nicole and DaMar Walker! So much wisdom, so much power. So much HEALING. Listen, we talked and the people leaned in. There were tears. There were chills. There was love.

This open and vulnerable conversation reminded me how important it is that we continue to hold spaces that are safe, engaging, respectful, loving and authentic. We had several guided questions, but the conversation took it's own shape and I let the energy move us. I walked away with so many valuable nuggets.

1. We feel deeply in this creative community. Being inspired is hard. There is so much oppressive energy in this world. The social justice ecosystem is at war with injustice right now. We're not agitating for agitation's sake, people are literally dying. Racism isn't hiding. Homophobia is being unpacked and exposed. The arts community carries a much heavier amount of this weight. We're the ones you ask to sing at your funerals. To do a poem at your wakes and vigils, to get on a stage at a conference and tell a story of a friend slain in the streets just to wake you up. Don't take that lightly. And make sure you're supporting these artists when there isn't a funeral. Make sure you're putting those same healers in your budget for their art shows.

2. We fight to maintain the momentum. There are seasons where we aren't inspired. But we have to keep the lights on. We have to pay the bills. Spaces like this have a greater economic impact on the creative economy. We need to hold spaces like this consistently. We need to gather and stir the pot. Buy the art so we can thrive collectively.

3. Heal self, heal others. Look here, every one of us on the panel were fighting back tears, still figuring it out, working on self care and managing the struggle we all seek to be free of. But we all acknowledge we are broken and being put back together again. Even as the elder on the panel I am managing self care and figuring it out as I go. But we are ineffective if we don't heal ourselves. The frequency of your voice is necessary for someone else's wellness walk. It is muffled, out of tune and mismanaged when we don't care for ourselves. Love yourself radically creatives. The world needs you.

"We were taught our black bodies weren't our own."

-DeMar Walker

Because this was an art exhibition some people didn't check in to the engaging conversation. Honestly, that's fine. We did, however need to teach about "respecting the mic" for those who chose to lean in. Sometimes you just have to model wellness and be present. Eventually life teaches you to lean in. For those that came to be with us I am grateful. I hope we hold space again. I hope we have more of this. I also accept and understand why the room was so alive. The walls were singing in harmony. The cry for us to do better was impossible to ignore.

For those that talked over the panel I hope you buy some art off those walls!

"This is the love that may well be the salvation of our civilization. But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community."

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Equally important was the content of the exhibition. The call was open to all ages and the youngest exhibitor was 4! I remain awe inspired by the creatives of this community. My favorite part of this exhibit is the jury reflected their peers. Black and brown jurors makes all the difference in the diversity in prize winners.

The second prize winner was a project by youth at Casa Romero!

First prize goes to Brianna McCoy, a senior at Pius IV!

I wanna take a moment to acknowledge all the #DopeAsFuck creatives that made this possible. Dakota, the founder of LIT is just that. Xela of Walker's Point Center for the Arts congratulations on being selected in the 2020 class of #40Under40 by the Milwaukee Business Journal! And every single artist featured in the show I hope you sell every piece and earn revenue from your amazing gifts. So many of my faves on the walls! The exhibit runs until February 28th, so PLEASE make sure you get down there and experience it while there's still time. Nailah and Shavonda you two are my absolute faves for curating an amazing show of such vision! You captured a vibe, an energy, a feeling we're all experiencing. You gave us a notebook, a microphone and a canvas to express ourselves. Thank you both for seeing me and inviting me into this sacred space. The words, the love, the reinforcement was an especially "had to be there" moment. The two of you inspired this blog. Oh how I adore you both!

In closing get down to Walker's Point Center for the Arts and experience this exhibit. You don't want to miss it.

#socialjustice #publicallies #LIT #MKEMovementArt