In #BlackLivesMatter Protests, Art Unites and Heals

As People Hit the Streets to Demand Justice for Freddie Gray, Art and Artists Are Making a Difference

Art has always served as a catalyst of social change and community mobilization, and in the movement against police brutality people are using graphics, dance, and music to provide healing and make their voices heard.

As crowds hit the streets in Baltimore and all over the country to protest the death of Freddie Gray, art, artists, and arts organizations rose up in support of #BlackLivesMatter.  BMore Art, a blog which usually features content from across the arts community, has in recent days focused its coverage on different artists’ reports of “the protests and cleanup efforts through the lens of multiple Baltimore residents…showcasing the true Baltimore community to readers in the area and beyond.” A small local gallery called Gallery 788 is holding an art auction to benefit Youth Empowered Society (YES), a drop-in center for homeless youth in Baltimore that was set alight on Monday night. 100% of the proceeds from the auction will go to YES. Perhaps the most prominent arts organization to get involved, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) circulated a special newsletter specifically tailored to the protests that finished with a message of hope and unity: “Right now, we all need to sing for Baltimore.”

But it isn’t only professional artists and sector workers that are calling on art to serve their cities and communities in this moment. As #BlackLivesMatter has taken off, people across the country are using artistic tools to put their voices in the public view, attending rallies with painstakingly beautiful handmade signs, drumming in the street, instigating dancing amidst the crowd, and singing loudly in chorus.

One particularly poignant moment occurred at the #philly4baltimore protests on April 30th. High school students, members of the Philadelphia Student Union, formed a drum circle and invited anyone to enter the middle and dance. Students and community members of all kinds entered the circle with joy , moving to the sound of the chant “[t]he people, united, will never be defeated.” Demonstrating the ways that dance and music can serve to release anger and accumulate joy, these students embodied what Plato meant when he said: “Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.”