On the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, in a hall with a 50 foot ceiling and politically charged artwork covering its walls, a multicultural crowd sat rapt at the sound of Chuck D’s voice, sonorous as ever. The Public Enemy icon doesn’t need cavernous rooms for his voice to boom; for over 30 years, he’s been hip hop’s voice of truth, a radical and activistic street preacher whose “Fight The Power” is both a mantra and theme song for nights just like this.
Chuck wasn’t rapping here, though. The MC sat onstage next to Gina Belafonte, a co-organizer of this event dubbed Into Action, a free, nine-day festival of paintings, panels, and performances in downtown Los Angeles, dedicated to social justice issues from criminal justice reform to feminism to climate change and immigration.
This particular panel felt like the spiritual backbone of the whole enterprise: Titled “ARTIVISM: The Art of Social Action,” the conversation underscored the relationship between social change and youth art movements, and how artists are uniquely equipped to communicate complex political issues with simplicity and depth, through frames, phrases, and melodies alike.
After the panel Chuck and I had a little walk-and-talk conversation, like something out of West Wing. He’d weighed in on so many topics that night, but I wondered if there was any one issue that weighs on him the heaviest in this age of Trump.
“Human beings have to pay attention to every second, because what they are seeing is unprecedented, coming at light speed,” D said, speaking to the dangers of our whirlwind news cycle and information overload. “It is taking the mind that they have,” he went on, “so for people to heed their own minds, and their own sanity, is going to be a struggle.”
How to overcome disinformation and headline desensitization in an era of endless social media scrolls, fake-news, and foreign-government Facebook algorithm hacking? Chuck and I didn’t have time to deeper. But given that Public Enemy set a template for “artivism” incarnate, it stands to reason that D’s faith in placed there. He returned to the night’s thesis:
“Artists can…collude and work as a collective, because people are going to be held to task and possibly arrested for their art, because they’re speaking at louder volumes than laws,” he said.
When I called his response “beautiful,” he objected.
“It wasn’t trying to be beautiful, either. It’s scary.”
We ended on a note of agreement: Scary or no, there is beauty in truth.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.
“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.
In this new episode of ‘Bet on Black,’ food and beverage take center stage as aspiring Black entrepreneurs from It’s Seasoned, Black Farmer Box, and Moors Brewing Co. present their business ideas to judges with mentorship from Melissa Butler. Watch here!
REVOLT is continuing its impactful partnership with Walmart by teaming up to showcase Black creatives at HBCUs all-across America. The panel consisted of three experienced, accomplished Black HBCU alumni: Actor and media personality Terrence J, entertainment attorney John T. Rose, and actress and “REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy-Rue McCullough.
Take a look inside the Makers Studio presented by Walmart at REVOLT WORLD, a space where Black creators could hone in on their brand and see it come to life.
The health of a community can often be traced to the health of the environment that surrounds it. In Atlanta, a woman named Dr. Jaqueline Echols has dedicated her life to helping ensure that people in economically underserved communities have clean rivers – for better health and for the joy of outdoor recreational space.
Fly Guy DC taps in with REVOLT WORLD attendees to learn what the Opportunity Center, presented by Walmart, means to them and their futures.
In the season finale of “Bet on Black,” special guest judge Ray J joins as the finalists take the main stage to show they have what it takes to win the $200,000 grand prize; Melissa Butler and Eunique Jones Gibson mentor. Presented by Target.
Walmart supports HBCU students and encourages them to be Black & Unlimited. Fly Guy DC talked to a few at REVOLT WORLD about how being an HBCU student has changed their lives.
In this exclusive interview, DDG opens up about his fashion inspiration, what drew him to girlfriend Halle Bailey, dealing with negative opinions about his relationship, and more. Read up!
Here’s a list of rappers who are named after food. Enjoy — or shall we say, “Bon appetit”?
The artist has remained remarkably consistent in her song lyrics about making money, telling off haters and feeling liberated since her debut.
The next time you’re looking for a caption for your perfectly curated Instagram, there’s a 95 percent chance that Drizzy’s got you!