Centering Black Life

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In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests, UrbArts took time to reassess how to serve Black artists and support our community. At a minimum, we knew we needed to develop new partnerships with organizations on the frontlines of police reform. Additionally, we understand that public policy regulates human behavior and determines the flow of resources in our communities. Given these two factors, we will focus our attention on three initiatives.

1. Create Pressure – Art shows us the world as it is and as it could be. In considering what art can do, the work of Emory Douglas shows us how Black creatives can inspire, comment, bear witness, and hold perpetrators of misconduct accountable in one piece. His artistic work with the Black Panther Party, while incendiary, has profound resonance that touches us today. Create Pressure is an ongoing initiative that uses art exhibition to hold law enforcement accountable for their misconduct against the Black community.

This initiative owes part of its purpose from the recent work of Ava DuVernay and her Law Enforcement Accountability Project. The wall of the UrbArts gallery has been a brave space for poetry performances and visual art that, in its expression, remembers the litany of victims who died at the hands of police. Yet, we do not know the names of the officers responsible for those lost lives. Because of this oversight, UrbArts will help jog our collective memories of anyone killed at the hands of police, forever denied Due Process. Historically, we considered such extra-legal remedies as lynching. We call it lynching whenever a life is taken by law enforcement and denied Due Process. No police officer should be regarded as above the law. Until this practice of lynching is ended locally and all state laws that shield this practice change, we will create pressure through our art.

2. INFORM our Community – UrbArts believes that elected officials must be accountable for their votes and policy prescriptions. To that end, UrbArts will inform our community on the policy position and history of elected officials on issues important to them. This will come in the form of report cards and other easily understandable forms of communication. This will continue through November 2, 2020 and return 45 days out from local elections.

3. Register Voters & Turnout – UrbArts will encourage our community to register to vote and participate in elections. As a nonprofit, we will not advocate for candidates, but we will advocate for our values. This will continue through November 2, 2020 and return 45 days out from local elections.

It is through these three initiatives where UrbArts will express our organizational values. We do not know if these initiatives will change the status quo. We do not know if certain law enforcement will stop lynching Black citizens and denying us Due Process or if particular elected officials will work tirelessly for equality. What we know is that we will do something and act now.


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