Sunday, September 20, 2020

MSU residential colleges hold 2nd annual Social Justice Art Festival

January 28, 2019

Art, unity and justice. These words stood as a mantra for the Second Annual Social Justice Art Festival — an event created to bring attention to social issues both inside and outside Michigan State. 

Hosted by James Madison College and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, the festival was an all-day event that took place in Snyder-Phillips Hall. Artists displayed their musical performances, poetry, literature and films throughout the building. The festival featured about 30 physical pieces.

“Given recent events on our campus, things going on in our country right now — it's really important for people to have an awareness of issues of inequality, issues of inequity, and really, what social justice means,” Amber Benton, director of diversity programming and student engagement for James Madison College, said.

Studio Art senior Azya Moore submitted three pieces to this festival. Her painting, entitled "A Black Man’s Dream," featured her brother and expresses vulnerability of black men in America.

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“He is 17 years old. He's the baby in the family and the idea of him being a black man gives me a lot of fear and anxiety from that — with the political climate and the way that things go usually for black men," Moore said.

When creating the piece, Moore said she had her brother send her a poem he liked. He sent, "See it Through," by Edgar Albert Guest.

"And so, it's talking about just kind of pushing forward and keeping your head high, even though you know, despite all that you're going through," Moore said. "And not only that, but it also mentions the past and how past men have gone through the same things and so they've gotten through it.”

Poet Ariana Brown — who has twice received the Academy of American Poets Prize and is the 2014 collegiate national poetry slam champion  — was the keynote speaker for the festival. She spoke about her experiences as a black Mexican-American woman and performed several pieces of her work for the audience, including four new poems. 

“At an event like this, you get to hear about a lot of different things in one day that touch on local issues, national issues, gender, race, intersecting issues," Benton said. "I think people can learn a lot in this one event that you probably couldn't capture in just one diversity training, or attending one lecture on campus, or hearing one speaker — so I feel like you get the most impact coming into something like this."

During the opening statements, the committee in charge of the event explained there are different ways people will experience the art, and that it can be hard for some to understand or process.

“I initially came because one of my friends has a piece ... and I wanted to come and support her, and I'm really glad that I did,“ Comparative Cultures and Politics freshman Emma Anderson said. "We talked to one of the other artists upstairs, and I think seeing the art is really cool, but also seeing how passionate people are about it really brings something special to it, because social justice is something that's so close to everybody in a different way. I think it brings like a really personal aspect to it.”

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