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Art is not Political...except that it is

January 13, 2017

Ok, so I had a whole other blog post prepared, but it can wait. Just like so many others, on Sunday evening I watched the Golden Globes. Such an amazing show! The beautiful dresses, the opening act, the films and movies that won the awards! I am an actor, so of course I spent the night imagining myself in a glorious floor length gown, accepting an award (give me two years, it's going to happen). I am also an actor of color, so there was huge excitement when Tracee Ellis Ross won (the first black woman in 33 years to win in that category), Viola Davis won (for her brilliant and inspiring performance in Fences) and of course Donald Glover's win for Atlanta (a show that he created and stars in).

 

However, even with all of these amazing moments, one of the most talked about was the moment that acclaimed actor Meryl Streep poured her heart out to the audience with an impassioned plea for tolerance of diversity, love and respect in this country. As she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, without naming names, Ms. Street pointed out the baser actions of our President-Elect and called on us to counteract his rhetoric. I personally was inspired and I respect her words.

 

Not everyone does though. These past few days I have read many articles, tweets and had conversations with people who believe that Ms. Streep was wrong to voice her opinions at an awards show. People who believe that "rich celebrities" should just stick to what they know, which in this case would be acting. Individuals who felt that Ms. Streep, a United States Citizen, should not be allowed to speak out on the state of her country. Those who state "Leave politics out of art!"

 

Except, art is political. And it always has been. The literal definition of Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination producing work for their beauty and emotional power. To simplify, art is the expression of the emotional state of a society, which can be seen in music, dance, sculpture and yes, acting. It is social commentary on the state of the world around the artist. For example Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" is commentary on the black experience in the 60's and includes lyrics on equality, police brutality and violence. Decidedly political right? A modern example of politics in art is Harry Potter. Think about it, aside from all of the magic, it is a story about a powerful society using its power and influence to force a "weaker" group into submission; this weaker groups' rebellion leads to the rise of our lead character. That too sounds decidedly political. I could use many more examples, but I think that you get the point.

 

So since we can now agree to the political influence in the creation of art, let's talk about who is allowed to express it and when. In the United States, Freedom of Speech/ Expression guarantee's the right of an individual to express ideas without retribution, in any medium, with the only limitation being speech that will lead directly to physical harm or danger. By that definition, Ms. Streep was right in the use of her speech and in the medium in which she chose to make that speech. In my opinion, the United States is in a precarious place right now, with the violence and disrespect reminiscent of a darker time in our history. Protest and social awareness is always criticized as being done at the wrong time or the wrong place. But tell me, what is the right time and place to speak out against inequality and violence? And also, who is allowed to speak on such things?

 

I am an Actor. I am an Artist. I am a Black Woman. I will use my voice to speak out in defense of others today. I will use my voice to speak out in the defense of others tomorrow. When I become a household name, I will use my voice to continue to speak out in the defense of others. I will use the rights guaranteed to me by this country and the military that defends it and continue to speak out against injustice, intolerance and violence. My humanity will not let me do otherwise. You can turn your head if you like, but I will use any platform given to me to speak out. Deal with it.

 

Oh, and one more thing. For those who feel that "rich celebrities" should stay out of politics: YOU ELECTED A RICH CELEBRITY TO THE HIGHEST OFFICE IN OUR NATION! Say it loud for the people in the back.

 

See below for my favorite moments and looks from the 2017 Golden Globes!

 

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