In an effort to elevate diverse voices, we’re sharing our platform with leaders of color to hear their thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion. For this month’s article, we reached out to Demetries Neely, Executive Director of King Arts Complex, to share their efforts in creating lasting societal change through the social justice movement.
Thank you, Demetries, for sharing your work and passion for creating a more equitable community through the arts.
— Mollard Consulting
This past Sunday, another unarmed black man, Mr. Jacob Blake, was shot by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mr. Blake was shot multiple times in his back while his three young sons cried out in fear for their father. At the time of this writing, Mr. Jacob Blake’s father reports that his son is now paralyzed and fighting for his life. Enough is enough!
Let’s go back to the afternoon of Saturday, May 30th and Sunday, May 31st, when thousands flooded the streets of Columbus to protest police brutality. The demonstrations were prompted by the countless killings of unarmed Blacks by the police, specifically Mr. George Floyd and Ms. Breonna Taylor. While mourning for Floyd and Taylor, I felt a strong sense of inadequacy because I did not know what to do to ease the pain. In the middle of one of my sleepless nights, the idea of an arts protest came to mind.
In response to the killings of unarmed Blacks, The King Arts Complex convened a movement called the HeART of Protest. The HeART of Protest represents 28 arts organizations in Columbus who have come together to create 46 (non-sequential) days of artistic protest to honor the 46 years of Mr. George Floyd’s life.
Art will be both a catalyst and a documenter of the social justice movement that is underway. Through their unique art form, each arts entity will focus on telling an aspect of Black America’s story, from slavery to the present day. The stories are difficult, hurtful, and complicated. Art can educate and inform while capturing the heart and mind. The goal is to educate and to highlight how systemic racism practices and policies are deeply embedded in our institutions.
Our “why” is not to lay out our pain or entertain. We want action toward lasting change. We will affect real change through voting — the way in which we participate in our democracy. The HeART of Protest’s call to action is voter registration and a cry to vote. To further our efforts, we have installed semi-annual voter registration/access community forums as one of our signature events.
All of the art will be memorialized through videography and photography. A coffee table book will be published to honor the movement and this moment in American history. The project is created, led, designed, produced, and executed by young professional artists, ages 12 to 42.
The HeART of Protest has taught us the value of receiving authentic input from young professionals because they are at the center and in the front of the movement. The movement is giving voice those who seek representation of their life experiences; voices that are far too often neglected. Our new programmatic protocols will include quarterly meetings with young professionals to gain their insights and recommendations.
We cannot afford to let this opportunity go by without learning and taking action. The time is now! What have you learned from the recent events? What actions are you taking to create real change?
“A time comes when silence is betrayal.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Article by: Demetries Neely, Executive Director, King Arts Complex