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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right,” and for the 30–year-old actress and activist Nia Miranda, this sentiment holds true.
“I feel like being born Black in America, you’re born into activism. It’s like our life duty almost from a very young age. My name is Nia, it means purpose. And so, my entire life, I’ve kind of taken on the responsibility of the meaning of my name in knowing that I had a calling. And that I needed to use my voice,” Miranda tells REVOLT.
The self-proclaimed “artivist” from Detroit, who now resides in North Hollywood; uses her voice, passion, and tenacious spirit to advocate for Black lives. Most recently, she joined a crowd of thousands, storming the streets of L.A. to push for immediate change.
As anti-police brutality protests continue to emerge around the globe, many activists, organizers, and people simply standing for what they believe is right deal with a wide range of actions from their peers, all with plans of disruption however different paths to making their voices heard.
While some protestors parade through the streets, proudly and loudly proclaiming “BLACK LIVES MATTER” while carrying signs in support of non-racist society and establishment; others saw different, hands-on actions as solutions. Many protestors decided to damage storefront windows, tear down racist relics, set fire to police stations, and graffiti property in their quest for justice.
“I think that it’s time that America cannot continue to profit off of our skills, our talents, our likeness, and do not stand up for us and our pain, devastation and tragedy. [It’s] time’s up today,” says Miranda on the timeliness of the uprisings.
There is no handbook for proper behavior during a national uprising and personal reaction to centuries of despair may differ. Some fear people with ulterior motives are becoming the catalysts for violence during demonstrations across the country. Mostly non-Black citizens hit the streets, partaking in the looting, tagging, and civil disobedience, disoriented on their motives.
Miranda recently made digital waves as a viral video showed her confronting two white women for spray-painting “Black Lives Matter” on a local Starbucks. She and a companion held the women accountable for posing as protestors in efforts to vandalize properties during a protest in Los Angeles, California.
REVOLT caught up with Miranda to learn more about that incident, what drives her to be an “artivist,” and why she did not hesitate when calling the women out. Read the convo below.
You call yourself an “artivist.” How does that align with your goals and what does that term mean for you?
Being an “artivist,” what I’ve learned is if you really want to see a change in the world, it’s [art] usually [that’s] what changes people, either by way of music, a film, a play, a poem, a spoken word, art is what gets into your soul and changes you. An artist is connected to truth. And one thing we can’t deny is a truth, where it’s not manipulated by politics or anything like that, art is pure for the most part and I’ve always been an artist since I was a little girl.
I believe that there’s a lot of power in art, and me just having the purpose of standing up for what’s right, standing up for my people, and pushing my ancestors’ agenda, I figured that this was the best marriage between art and activism.
What were your thoughts before confronting those two women tagging the Starbucks?
It was attention without hesitation. When I saw them, and I saw “Black Lives Matter,” and I clearly saw that was not a Black person, I immediately felt…enraged, not like I wanted to attack them, but like I had to say something. When you see something like that, you’re supposed to say something because what’s interesting is, there were a lot of people around us. When my friends and I approached those ladies, they saw what they were doing and they didn’t say anything. And I knew that if I don’t take out my phone and record them right now, when I go home and look at the news tonight, they’re going to say the Black Lives Matter protesters destroyed this building, and I knew it wouldn’t have been the truth.
We’ve seen so many times in history, that if Black people don’t have video proof, and even when we do have video proof, it’s not a guarantee that we will be believed… It was just me doing my part. I felt like it was my job.
So, it was kind of an instant reaction. But, how did you think or did you have any idea about how they might react to you?
I didn’t care. I’m from Detroit, Michigan (laughs). However they were going to react, I was going to be prepared for it. I’m not going to hold you up. At first, I thought, “Really?” Then, I thought, “I can’t. I can’t afford to catch The Rona. I can’t put my hands on these girls. Let me just say what I meant to say, and get them out of here.” I wasn’t at all having an issue or thinking that it would be an escalated situation that I wouldn’t be able to handle. I didn’t have any fear.
What do you think about the forms of protests like tagging buildings to looting stores and how they’re being framed as a Black people rioting?
I’ve taken the responsibility of starting a new movement inside the movement. And I say that to say, ever since my video went out and it went viral, in my DM right now, I have tons of people sending me more videos like, “Hey, Nia. Look, we found some too. Thanks so much for what you did because now it’s giving us the empowerment to do the same thing, and record these people and approach these people.” If you look across the scope of social media before my video was posted, I hadn’t seen any videos actually catching someone and confronting them about what they were doing. Since me and my friends, we stood up, it’s almost become like a chain reaction. Now you’re seeing it everywhere. Everybody speaking out. Everybody’s confronting them and I’m just happy that I was able to be a part of the catalyst with that movement.
It’s a lot of people out there who are diminishing the name of this movement that we’re up against. Black people are fighting for our freedom and for justice [now] for over 400 years. We out there marching for a man that lost his life for nothing. It’s too important for me to allow anybody to invade on what this is.
Do you think it’s fair for Black protesters to carry the burden of calling out people who may have ulterior motives? Do you feel that non-Black protesters should also step up and hold their non-Black peers accountable?
I believe that, although we’re right now marching for real freedom for black people, I think that this is a world problem. This is a world issue and lately, in my DMs, I see my less melanated allies calling people out. I see my less melanated allies posting on their social media, “Hey, if you’re white and you want to help, this is not how you do it because this is just adding to the problem” because nine times out of 10, you vandalizing something, it’s putting a target on a Black person’s back.
Don’t spray something up to use your privilege. You can have certain conversations that we may not be able to have. You can go in certain rooms and sit at certain tables that we may not be able to go in, and have those same conversations. So, I believe that it’s up to us all, it’s not just a Black thing, and I do not believe that it’s our responsibility to have to control these people [although] it’s what we have to do. The truth of the matter is if I didn’t take that video and if I didn’t send it to my friend Steve Jones who had celebrities repost it, so it could go viral, we would have never seen this video and no one would have ever known the truth. I shouldn’t have to work that hard to defend the truth.
Are you planning to continue protesting?
Yes, I actually do plan on continuing to do these protests. I’m the founder of an organization called Bringing Love Back, and I plan on doing my own protest under my foundation and maybe partnering with some other local organizations, but I want to do it a little different. I am going to curate who is actually at the protests because what I’m noticing is when we put out protest information on social media, that means our allies — but also our infiltrators — know our information. So, we’re not safe. I plan on doing something that’s more curated where I can send a text message to specific people, send a DM to specific people, and they can add specific people to it. So that we can have more control of the outcome.
Do you feel like there is room for the different types of protests such as unpeaceful demonstrations alongside peaceful protesters, or things like financial boycotts?
I’m absolutely for financial boycotts. I believe we can control the black dollar. We can absolutely get our voice heard. I think that quarantine was probably one of the best things that ever happened to the Black community outside of the casualties that we’ve experienced due to Coronavirus. Quarantine took us away from our jobs. It allowed us to sit at home with family. Since quarantine, I know friends who have started businesses, I know friends who had some of the best health of their life. It gave us the opportunity to get out of the rat race, and have independent thoughts to think for ourselves again. [I] honestly believe that the government may be trying to open up the economy again because they forgot that when Black people are put in situations where we are put against the wall, we thrive. Being put in a situation where you can’t do what you want to do is nothing new for our community. So, we become creative. You have people like the D-Nice who changed the world… You have Swizz Beatz and Timberland who changed the world being in quarantine. When Black people are put in a box, we bust through the box with our magic.
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