Change will come from the 'artivists'. Sabra Williams reports from 'INTO ACTION'
Last week we blogged about a new social justice, arts and community festival taking place in Downtown LA called INTO ACTION. It turns out a great friend of The Alternative UK and life-long artivist Sabra Williams was attending the festival.
UK born and raised, Sabra is a part of the Los Angeles-based theatre company The Actors Gang (founding Director, Tim Robbins) and until recently was the Director of the company's Prison Project which applies art and theater to social transformation in prisons, founded in 2006 as a response to high recidivism rates in California (more here). Sabra's extraordinary work took her regularly to the White House and this year earned her a British Empire Medal in the 2017 New Year's Honours list. Watch our for her coming initiative Creative Acts, getting ready to launch early 2018.
Here's her report:
INTO ACTION calls itself a groundbreaking social justice festival of art and ideas, held in Los Angeles, CA. A free event, pulled together by a diverse group of artists and social activists, it hopes to galvanize the growing social justice movement and plant a flag in the ground for the arts at this pivot in history. Produced and curated by Yosi Sergant & Shepard Fairey, the team who created the Obama ‘Hope’ poster campaign, this nine-day festival includes both stars and influencers whose names you know on the same platform as those with their feet on the ground of the movement.
The two hangars are filled with art curated by Shepard Fairey from an Open Call to artists across California. The result is an incredible mix of art that is beautiful, sometimes shocking, often deeply moving and always thought-provoking. There’s even an opportunity to join a long line to write something on a china plate that you want to destroy, which you are then invited to smash against the wall. Patriarchy and shithole appeared to be two of the favorites.
INTO ACTION intends to turn ideas into action and has convened several panels and events to discuss how to do that. I witnessed a group of young DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients from Define American and Brown Issues, a community service organization, share their stories and bring home the reality of the iniquity of the actions of the current administration.
Day one started with a traditional Tongva opening ceremony. The Tongva were the indigenous people of the area that became Los Angeles. This was followed by a daily children’s social justice story hour, “Woke Kids”.
The Power of the Platform gathered a group of Hollywood producers and writers together to discuss the effect the #metoo and #timesup movement is having, and could have on the future of Hollywood. They defined the need for diversity in positions of power and the writers room, as well as clarifying that fighting for women alone is not going to create deep enough change because Hollywood thinks of women as white and cis, we must fight for diversity on every level and be one voice.
The Art of Social Justice panel moderated by Eluthera Lisch, included Chuck D, Gina Belafonte, Favianna Rodriguez, Lana Ludovico and Yosi Sergant. Chuck D reminded us that when people can’t speak they have to find another way to express themselves and they do it through Art. Yosi added that if we’re going to find our way out of this nonsense, it’s not going to come from politicians, it’s going to come from someone creative - and we need to create the space for them to do it. Favianna spoke to the fact that even in the Arts privilege rears its head in terms of safety and access. In fact currently four out of five working artists in America are white. Watch the panel talk here.
The Black Eyed Peas debuted their new video and their interactive book and spoke about the work each of them have been doing in their respective communities of Boyle Heights (will.i.am) Standing Rock (Taboo) and the Philippines (alp.de.ap).
And that was just a small sample of day one!
As someone who has been in this movement for the past twelve years, it is inspiring to see a true collaboration, a coming together, a crescendo, a moment in this movement to unify, support and reinvigorate us to clarify that this is not a movement of us against them, but of activists and artivists against patriarchy, racism, injustice, exclusion and privilege. I’ve been to hundreds of events and spoken on dozens of panels, but with INTO ACTION they’ve done it right every step of the way, giving access and the stage to every part of this movement held in the space of the Arts.
As this week's editorial describes, artivism is at the heart of The Alternative UK. Are you an artist and up for helping us with a Festival in 2019? Mail us with ideas and interest.