With a reality TV star as president, it seems like a lot of lines are being blurred these days—business and government, politics and television—and all to further the interests of a privileged few. But young people have always blurred the lines between art, politics, and pop culture to create progressive change, making space where none is given and giving space when a story needs to be told.
In art, we find modes of expression that are powerful, restorative, and increasingly disruptive to the status quo. Rapper Killer Mike campaigned for Bernie Sanders, Oliver Stone told the story of Edward Snowden, and Ava DuVernay brought the realities of the American prison system to our homes.
To celebrate the power of art in social justice, please join IPS for a night of performance and recognition of creative action. We will be showcasing work from a wide variety of artists who give voice to their activism through written and spoken word, film, photography, song, and more.
Taylor Smith-Hams is a Baltimore-based artist and and organizer. Her work is motivated by the threats that environmental pollution and climate change pose to human well-being. She is particularly interested in environmental justice and the human rights violations that manifest in disruptions of vital food, water, and energy systems. Pieces from her collection, “Seeking Fair Development” are showcased here today.
SHAN is an award-winning photographer, writer, and freedom fighter from East Baltimore. Using the lens to document the various communities of the African diaspora, SHAN’s work focuses on the experiences, identities and struggles of black life. Pieces from several of SHAN’s photo exhibits are featured here today.
Emily Norton is native Tennessean who’s made DC her home from the last 10 years. Much of her art and artistic process has focused on challenging shame individually and within her communities and encouraging radical self love and body positivity.
Khalid Qassim comes from Yemen. He grew up with little money or prospects, and travelled to Afghanistan in search of work. However, he was soon trapped in the chaotic aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and the start of the “War on Terror.” At the time, the US promised payments of life-changing amounts of money to local forces, and individuals, who were willing to capture and hand in Arabs. The Afghan authorities turned Khalid over to American forces. Khalid was soon shipped to Guantanamo, where he has spent the last 14 years. He has never faced trial or charges.
Ife Al-Din is a DC native. She graduated from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in 2012, and just recently earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Bowie State University. During her time there, Ife was inducted into three prestigious honor societies, as well as the National Society of Leadership and Success. Ife has been writing since she was seven years old and was inspired by her dad, who was a very well-known and active poet at the time. Ife has performed her poetry at her alma mater, Bowie State University, many times. She also had the honor of performing at Split This Rock’s protest-rally: Poem-Bomb the DOJ in January 2015.
In Georgetown’s “Prison Reform Project” GOVX course, 18 students participated in a groundbreaking project to highlight the stories of 6 returning citizens. Over the course of 4 months, students worked in groups to produce short documentaries profiling each individual’s struggles and triumphs. The ultimate goal of the project is to raise awareness of the challenges of societal reintegration, and the implications for individuals, families, and communities, as well as to inspire others to involve themselves in efforts to end mass incarceration.
Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. It calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation and witness from our home in the nation’s capital, we celebrate poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination.