Joy is a radical act. As a practice and as an experience, joy is something that can heal and sustain us when times are tough. But joy also provides opportunities to explore the possibilities beyond the limits of our daily lives.
Creating opportunities for joyful expression is increasingly necessary but often few and far between. The Black Lives Matter Global Network seeks to change that with a new creative fellowship program.
In an exclusive with NewsOne, the Black Lives Matter Global Network shared that it would invest in up-and-coming creators and artists through the “Black Joy Creators” Fellowship and Creator House. Processing through arts and culture is a privilege that many are not always afforded but is important to help navigate the challenges of the modern world.
“Black Lives Matter recognizes the power of arts and culture to dismantle white supremacy and bring us closer to achieving full liberation not just here in America, but across the globe also,” Black Lives Matter Global Network said in a statement shared with NewsOne. “We plan on working with both young emerging artists and established world-renowned cultural workers to imagine a liberated future for our people. In addition to excellent storytelling, we intend to disrupt current practices around artist exploitation and be industry leaders when it comes to compensation, intellectual property and resources. The Creators’ House is a safe dream space, for us, by us.”
The group has embraced a broad definition of creators, including dancers, filmmakers, culinary artists, and musicians. Storytellers and narrative artists, including podcasters and other digital influencers, are also included under the creator umbrella. The organization is also interested in those who are innovating in the space of ecology.
The group’s focus on supporting creative work is hardly new. Creative endeavors have been built into the organization’s fabric from its inception.
“Art is a part of our origin story, with the first official BLM meeting taking place at the historical art village, St. Elmo,” the network told NewsOne. “We intend to have the kind of impact that the village has had on generations of people by bringing art and culture into sharper focus.”
In the past, Black Futures Month embraced the artwork and creative direction of afro-futurist like Los Angeles based artist Seán Greer. The MLK Artist Series featured six Black artists engaging with the legacy of the late Rev. Martin Luther Jr.
Fellowship opportunities are few and far between, particularly in supporting the work and passion of Black creatives. And when funding is made available, it is often geared toward something traumatic, requiring creators to be immersed in pain instead of reveling in abundance and joy.
The house will provide both living spaces for artists to be in residence as well as communal spaces for collaboration. There will be a recording studio and production space on-site set up for artists and creatives to film, host live performances, garden, dream, mediate and build joy.
In the midst of so much happening on the domestic and global level, it could feel trivial to some people to focus on supporting the arts. But art in all its many forms has provided Black communities with a necessary outlet.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network says it also draws inspiration from the Black Arts Movement, a period of deep cultural engagement by Black artists pushing the boundaries of the revolutionary imagination.
“We welcome influencers to build in community with us,” the Black Lives Matter Global Network said. “We are inspired by the elders and ancestors of the Black Arts Movement who created theater and art space to support, propel, and inspire the Black Power movement of the 1960s. We are still fine-tuning the model, but wherever we land, just know it will infuse abolitionist practices and be Black as hell.”
In addition to providing financial support, the network will also provide creators with mentorship and social media engagement. An advisory committee will oversee the fellowship selection process.
“It is vital that we not replicate the white supremacist models used in the industry, and we are able to be intentional about truly uplifting creatives with our model,” the network explained. “We are redefining what it means to be an activist.”