I’ve written and deleted and re-written the opening to this week’s email of inspiration about a dozen times. I keep trying to move beyond all the “storytellers can change the world” inspirational talk you’ve been hearing from me over the past couple of months, so that we can get to the practical every day work of art and creativity.
But there are times throughout history that, regardless of our worldview or religion, call for our art, talent, and creativity to be used for more than just our day to day jobs, and I believe this is one of those times.
After each day’s news, I’ve found it harder and harder to just “move on.” I really do believe in the power that storytellers have to establish new narratives. It’s why I stepped in to lead this community…it’s special.
With that said, I still can’t find the right words for this moment. Maybe I’m just too white, and don’t feel like I have the appropriate words or perspective to share in an effort to inspire you this week. So, I called Micah Bournes. He’s a talented writer, poet, and spoken word artist, and also one of our presenters at STORY 2016. I asked him to guest curate this week’s email, in hopes that it might help us consider how we as artists, creators, and storytellers might use our talent for more than just “our work,” but to add to the conversation surrounding the issues our nation is facing regarding violence and racism.
It feels far more appropriate to have him curating this week. Here’s Micah…
- Kehinde Wiley is an artist who is contributing to the race conversation in innovative ways. He breaks stereotypes about minorities by painting them in unexpected and regal settings, which turn out to be quite fitting.
- Something I’ve been listening to a lot lately is Michael Kiwanuka’s song, “Black Man in a White World.” It reminds me of the tension found in blues music. It’s a lament and yet it makes you feel so much joy. The lyrics reflect the beauty of life, yet the struggle of being Black.
“I’m in love, but I’m still sad, I’ve found peace, but I’m not glad. I’ve lost everything I had, and I’m not angry, I’m not mad…I’m a Black Man in a white world.”
- A writer and storyteller who is thought provoking for me right now is Assata Shakur. I recently read her autobiography, simply called “Assata“. She is a former black panther who was accused of killing an officer. She doesn’t tell her story in chronological order, but instead jumps back and forth between her adult life and childhood, showing how the prejudice and experiences she endured as a girl influenced her perspectives as a woman. It’s insightful and incredibly entertaining.
- I’ve been asked things like, “Is there a creative organization who is taking a practical approach to real, sustainable, long-term change?” There are good people out there making a difference doing good things that so many are unaware of. For 16 years, Young Chicago Authors (YCA) has hosted an event called “Louder than a Bomb.” It’s the world largest Youth Poetry Slam. Each year, poets are sent to high schools all over Chicago to teach and coach students in the art of spoken word poetry, culminating in the city-wide festive and poetry slam. It’s beautiful how this non-profit is helping inner city students realize just how creative and talented they are while giving them a platform to share their stories. A few years back, a documentary by the same name, “Louder than a Bomb” was made about the event:
How far are we willing to go in our efforts at reconciliation? How much are we willing to humble ourselves and forgive each other? Frederick Douglass wrote a letter to his former master after he escaped from slavery. He concludes the letter with these powerful words:
“There is no roof under which you would be more safe than mine, and there is nothing in my house which you might need for your comfort, which I would not readily grant. Indeed, I should esteem it a privilege to set you an example as to how mankind ought to treat each other. I am your fellow-man, but not your slave.”
In closing, I asked Micah what advice he would give creatives as we move forward. He simply responded by saying, “Get to know folks who are unlike you. Not just a conversation, but a continuous friendship.”
Thanks to Micah for his perspective and inspiration for this week. Here’s to friendships developing out of collaboration, and to creators and storytellers helping establish a new narrative for our broken nation. May our collective and peaceful art and stories be Louder than a Bomb.