Can Artists Make A Difference In Situations Like Ferguson?

6 artists share their thoughts.

November 26, 2014

The Missouri city of Ferguson has been embattled over the past few months in the tumultuous aftermath of Michael Brown's death, as well as the grand jury decision regarding whether to indict his murderer, police officer Darren Wilson. Artists have tweeted, talked, and released protest songs—but can they make a difference? We reached out to a group of musicians, actors, and designers and asked them to share their feelings on and experiences with civic engagement; here's what they had to say.

Mick Jenkins

rapper

Is there a particular issue that you think isn't getting enough attention these days? I think a lot of the things that happen essentially come from the same transgressions. Our society is built on capitalism, so a lot of our problems come from there. The biggest problems are always in the news, especially in my community—but on a larger scale, I think there are things that are going on in the government, and in non-minority communities, that aren't getting talked about enough. The lives, wrongdoings, and stereotypes about minorities are always at the forefront.

Mick is on Twitter; watch the powerful video for "Dehydration".

Mick Jenkins
rapper
Kerby Jean-Raymond

designer

What are some helpful ways people can try to make a change? In order to make meaningful change, we have to hold more offices and get more men and women of color in uniform. I applaud those people who have been using their platforms no matter how small, to bring global attention to this cause—Shaun King, Antonio French, Iyanla Van Zandt. In contrast, I'm deeply saddened by and ashamed of people with an enormous platform, like musicians with a lot of influence over the youth, who have remained silent throughout this.

Jean-Raymond is a designer at Pyer Moss.

Kerby Jean-Raymond
designer
Jean Grae

rapper

Can musicians make a difference in situations like these? People who have the ability to speak to an audience on a wide level should decide what kind of responsibilities they choose to adopt. I don't think people should expect things from musicians, artists, or celebrities simply because of their fame. There are definitely musicians who fall in the category of people you want to embrace that kind of responsibility, but let's be honest...there are also a lot of them that should not be using their platform for janky activism.

I'm not a political activist by any means. For me, it's important to use a wider platform to pass on information about how to stay as safe as possible on the front lines—emergency tips, links to sites that have breaking coverage faster than news outlets, police scanner links. I feel helpless in terms of not being there to physically do anything, but I try my best to spread information.

Follow Grae on Twitter at @JeanGreasy.

Jean Grae
rapper
Spank Rock

rapper

Is there a particular issue that you think isn't getting enough attention these days? Police brutality and our broken criminal justice system have always been the most important issues to me—other than fixing our socio-economically biased education system. I'm always in fear that my freedom is going to compromised. I've been afraid of the police for my entire life. I was afraid of Officer Friendly in kindergarten! Fuck the police! Fuck the police! Fuck 'em!

Follow @spankandbank for more wise words from Spank Rock and his partner in tweeting, Amanda Blank.

Spank Rock
rapper
Keith Stanfield

actor, musician

Can musicians make a difference in situations like these? Anyone can inspire change, but obviously it will only work out if we do it together—ALL OF US. We have to begin with ourselves inside and stop knee-jerk reactions to stimulus designed to itch our primal awarenesses and drive us further into the rabbit hole of guilt trips and fear driven oppression.

Keith plays Jimmie Lee Jackson, a black civil rights protestor who was shot and killed by a white police officer in 1965, in the upcoming movie Selma. He also performs in a band called MOORS; check them out on SoundCloud.

Keith Stanfield
actor, musician
Mykki Blanco

rapper

Is there a particular issue that you think isn't getting enough attention these days? Lack of nutrition in the hoods. They are feeding people poison, not putting proper grocery stores in lower income communities contributing to long lasting health issues and obesity. It may seem like a topical issue in the face of other hardships, but it's basic and its real. People in lower income communities need good food, the option of being heathy, and experiencing wellness.

Mykki Blanco is on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, and on the streets in New York— follow him everywhere.

Mykki Blanco
rapper

Photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty

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Can Artists Make A Difference In Situations Like Ferguson?