Last week, I talked about the Trayvon Martin verdict.
I’m not going to return to that discussion, this week—in the face of ongoing protest and outrage over the verdict—I want to speak to the role of art and its potential to spark social movements.
Let me explain- It was certainly no surprise that Stevie Wonder helped lead the current and rapidly growing movement to boycott the State of Florida in protest over its Stand your Ground laws and the recent verdict.
Stevie Wonder is a visionary, and he always understood the role art can play in politics and promoting social change. He grew up in an era in which art was a way for Black people to raise their voices and speak to the unacceptable conditions we faced.
Think the Black Arts Movement; think Sonia Sanchez; Curtis Mayfield; Nina Simone; Marvin Gaye; Aretha Franklin; Ossie Davis; Ruby Dee; Muhammad Ali; Curt Flood; Harry Belafonte; The Last Poets; and many more.
These artistic warriors put themselves, their money and their successful careers on the line for the sake of their beliefs and their community.
Imagine where we’d be if it were not for the sacrifice, courage and leadership of these bold artists in challenging times like we are now in. We continue to stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who chose the conscientious path over the popular one.
So what does this all mean for the rest of us? Those of us who are not high profile celebrities?
It means we have to recognize our own power within the spheres we influence. No, we may not be able to have CNN publicize our political positions across the world like Stevie’s recent onstage declaration, but we may be able to impact our immediate community in a positive way.
I’m a firm believer that you have as much power as you think you do. If I truly want to change something I can’t accept, then I have to first believe that I have the power to change it.
And one thing we do have power over is ourselves. And, as they say, the most important thing we can do is to change the man or woman in the mirror…
Although he has been blind for most of his life, Stevie Wonder has always seen this clearly. Let it inspire us to use our gifts to stand for something and, in doing so, make this world a more humane and Godly place for our children.
I’ll leave you with this quote, I’m sure you’ve heard it before and it still rings true. It goes like this:
“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”