Arts & Activism 101

It was in 2005 that I had one of my “A-Ha!” moments. I was directed to connect with an organization in the south that “spoke my language,” an organization that I should know: Alternate ROOTS. It was exciting to discover them. I felt like I should know them already, given my background. But I had been so busy with the work of growing my company (AKILA WORKSONGS, Inc.) that I rarely found time to pause and process the context of my work. Sure, I could explain it. In fact, I’m sure I could over-explain it. Therein lied the problem: I could not succiently articulate the essence of my work. Then I landed on the Alternate ROOTS website and there it was, “arts and activism.” I have been wearing out the phrase ever since. It says just enough, and in some ways too little. Perfect!

I’m noticing that folks are adorning their work with the phrase more and more. For example, after talking with a peer recently about my work, my approach, my marketing techniques, and what I call this body of work (arts and activism), I discovered that that work (what I shared with this gentleman earlier) actually re-presented as this gentleman’s own lecture…under the heading that he just learned from me.

Well, I think it’s a good thing when good things expand. I think it’s also important to tell the truth about what we know. In my speeches and in casual settings, I often link this catchy phrase back to the folks I heard it from first just a few years ago. I have stamped my work accordingly for the past three years. And with media, public relations, and marketing being a huge part of the work I do professionally, that makes for a pretty big stamp.

So, let me archive it here now, in writing, the origin of this “new” catch-phrase: as far as I know, the poetic and intelligent folks at Alternate ROOTS birthed the phrase “arts and activism” and AKILA WORKSONGS popularized it…the description, not the concept, of course.