Art as Activism

Art as Activism

The Bus was stoked to be able to provide a small economic boost to five amazing young, local artists. Thank you to everyone who participated by sharing their art, promoting the contest, and voting on the submissions! Read on and get to know the artists behind two of our arts contest submissions and learn their stories. 

Fifth House Media: Kamyar Mohsenin (he/him) Hanan Hassan (she/her) Toni Banx (she/her) Elevate music video

Performed by: Hanan Hassan (@onedesertflower), Toni Banx (@toni.banx); Written by: Hanan Hassan, Toni Banx; Filmed by: Kamyar Mohsenin (@kamyar.m); Produced by: Noah O’Connor (@noah_coinflip); Engineered by: Noah O’Connor, Arthur Anderson (@mead.st

About the piece: “This song is written as a reminder to the listener of their agency in unfavorable social circumstances and their power to ‘elevate.'” 

How COVID is impacting the artists: Hanan is a teaching artist who worked in community outreach, and that is totally eliminated, which is creating financial strain. She’s hopeful that she’ll get to return to that work. Toni lost her job completely, but she feels lucky that there are resources to help during COVID. Being a creative person, she’s taking it all positively and is grateful for the space to dive into her creativity. Kamyar’s workload has diminished– he went from teaching four in-person film-making classes to teaching two online classes and is definitely feeling the financial strain. He’s also working with Coyote Central, Lens Culture, and as a freelance video editor. He’s always excited about and working toward more projects with local, like-minded artists.

On adjusting and upliftment: Toni has more time to do what she loves to the fullest extent. “The way that I create has always been to give a voice to people that are underrepresented, especially black women. I feel like it’s important that we are heard and understood. Hip hop is a great medium for that.” In Toni’s words, the pandemic is highlighting where the screws are loose in our society. 

Kamyar has been making more of the space that he lives in; re-sorting the feng shui of it since he’s in it all the time and needs to be inspired and productive in it and by it. He’s trying no to take for granted the fact that the pandemic has issued a reclaiming of time and is using it as an opportunity to better himself in the long run.

Hanan’s message hasn’t changed because her art is always about underrepresented communities who are repeatedly affected by the same detriments. A lot of the poetry, scripts, and music that she writes discuss upliftment and reality while being able to point out what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, and how we can fix it. 

Art as Activism: Toni: “Hip hop is the voice of the people. It’s the voice of where I’m from.” Toni feels that the genre has been misconstrued. It highlights social injustices and inadequacies, and instead of crying about it, it offers solutions. “My number one thing that I always want to give people is ideas, suggestions, ways to move forward. That is what hip hop is created for.”

Hanan: “Art is a vehicle for activism. With everything that we do, it feels like there’s no option to be apolitical. Being an underrepresented person in a community, you have to speak up for yourself and choose the medium to do that.” Hanah also described art as a capsule for storytelling. “In order to be an activist, you have to know the history and the best way to impact people.” 

Kamyar is a big advocate for environmental consciousness in his classrooms. He’s been trying to use his privilege to amplify the voices that need to be heard and matter. This video is a testament to that. He’s learning how to better assist others and expose communities in a way that’s honest and authentic. 

All these artists are inspired by the richness of people’s lives and stories. 

Most importantly, how to support them: “We can’t pay bills with comments and likes.” Cashapp: $fifthhouseband 

These amazing artists told me right off the bat that “during the pandemic, it’s very important to help one another,” so they donated the $300 from the Bus to Baby Z (the adorable baby in the music video) and their mom. 

Follow and purchase: @themelojuice (Hanan’s brain child/recipe supported by Kamyar and Toni) 

“Tell Seattle to actually support their artists. Too many artists grow up here or come here but can’t make strides.” They really want to be able to stay here and see the city become a true hub for artists, instead of watching awesome artists flee to LA or New York. They know that people here have spending power and want entertainment and feel that we shouldn’t depend so heavily on the government to fund the arts. “If the artists who are working hard had opportunities to show their work, people would want to be patrons.” As a voice for all local creatives, they want to see more venues, gallery spaces, opportunities for exposure, and local (emphasis on that adjective!) artists being uplifted and showcased. 

Stay tuned for more beautiful work by Fifth House! 

 

bloobberry.bigcartel.com

Erika Mazza-Smith (she/her) Instagram: @bloobberry
bloobberry.bigcartel.com 

About the piece: “The illustration is of signs in front of the Northwest Detention Center calling for the release of folks detained. I drew sunflowers behind the fence because to me, sunflowers represent hope and I like that they always find the sun, even in difficult conditions.” 

How Erika has adjusted: Erika was heavily impacted because the coffee shop she worked at closed, so she hasn’t been able to work there in two months. She’s adapting by making masks, and she also joined a mutual aid group to help support her community by doing things like grocery shopping for those who can’t, which she highly recommends if you’re in a position to do so. She is also helping to put together a food justice online summer school with Community Alliance for Global Justice and works part-time for a youth fellowship. “I am a person who tends to make themselves busy, for better or for worse!  But I am realizing that it is important to take time to rest and to grieve and not to put too much pressure on myself to be productive or continually working, so that is a practice that I am engaging in more.”

Erika on art as activism: “I think the intersection of art and activism is super important! It’s super freeing to create art (even if you don’t consider yourself an artist) and I think creating activist art together is a great way to build community and camaraderie in movements. Art also helps spark an emotional connection to an issue in a way that data and facts cannot.”

What inspires Erika: “My biggest art inspiration right now is the cartoonist Lynda Barry. She is an incredible writer, artist and educator. She has written a couple books on creativity, personal narrative and building a consistent art practice. It has been incredibly helpful to me. Inspiration only lasts so long though, I have found that finding time to sit down to draw, to let my brain wander and not pass judgements on my ideas is super important. I also often find inspiration to create a larger work from what I doodle or from something small I observe/hear/think in my daily life.”

How to support: Erika says the best way to support artists right now is by buying their art! If you can’t afford art right now, even commenting on or sharing artists’ work online is so helpful and much appreciated.

By Libby Watson, College & Community Engagement Coordinator

Get Out That Vote!

Get Out That Vote!

Thirsty Thursday blog post reminding you to VOTE! #knowledgeresponsibly

The deadline to vote for the primary election is August 1st. Don’t forget to mail your ballot or drop it in a nearby dropbox!

Your vote really matters – in state and local elections just a few hundred votes can make the difference. If you live in Seattle, you’ll be helping to narrow down a crowded mayoral primary from 21 candidates down to 2! Plus, voting to determine whether we should create and fund a cultural access program expanding students and underserved populations’ access to arts, science, and heritage programming in King County, as well as voting on a county Executive and city councilmembers.

The Bus was out this weekend doing our part to make sure young people are turning out for elections large and small.

In order to make politics fun and accessible, we meet young folks where they are – and sometimes that means music festivals! This past weekend the Bus brought out Fellows, interns, and a ton of volunteers to canvass at Capitol Hill Block Party, making sure young folks at the festival were registered to vote and reminding them to turn in their ballots.

In the booth we had a station to make your own buttons, candy, and make-your-own-meme cutouts. While people learned about the Bus and had some fun with us, we made sure their voter registration was up to date, reminded them to turn their ballots in, and engaged them around voting access issues with a survey gauging public support for several strategies that can make voting easier, such as pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds, automatic voter registration, pre-paid postage, same-day voter registration and language accessibility. By gathering information on the survey, we hope that we can impact the voting systems and make it more accessible. *And it turns out emojis are a very effective tool of measurement everyone can relate to.

Many people consider politics to be something serious and unapproachable, and we want to break down barriers that prevent people from fully participating in our democracy. We can express our values, achieve our goals, and make our communities better through voting. While we tackle serious issues, we still want to make sure people associate politics with something fun, something they want to be a part of.

Here I ask again, please get out to vote! Voting matters to you. Voting matters to the community. Voting matters to the entire city and state. Let’s make our voices heard!

This blog post was written by the Bus’s Duke Engage interns, Debra and Anqi.

Introducing the Bustice League!

Introducing the Bustice League!

This week’s Hella Bus Blog Thirsty Thursday blog post comin’ at ya! #knowledgeresponsibly

We’ve got big news coming out of Buslandia, a place where dreams come true. Do you dream of 100% youth voter turnout? Do you want to befriend other rad civically engaged young people? Do you wish you could be a real-life superhero? Whatever your dream is, we’re proud to announce The Bustice League™, our brand spankin’ new volunteer program created with the stuff that dreams are made of.

Members of the Bustice League are the super-volunteers that help our voter registration and campaign work succeed. Super-volunteers commit to a certain number of volunteer hours per month. The opportunities are varied and endless–you could register voters at Bumbershoot, testify at city council, create a zine, or help out around the office. Joining the Bustice League gets you access to #firstdibs at music festival volunteer shifts, bus swag, an opportunity to build up your organizing skills, and of course, a once in a lifetime chance to change the world.

The Bustice League is an extension of our leadership development programs, our seasonal internship and summer fellowship. The Bustice League is open to people of all ages and experience levels. Have you already completed our fellowship program and want to get back on the Bus? Join the Bustice League! Did you just find out about us at Seattle Pride and want to learn more about volunteering? Join the Bustice League! We’ll have fun and meaningful ways for everyone to join.

As staff members, we commit to investing in you and your growth as a young political organizer with a passion for justice. We’ll also plan regular social events (happy hour, anyone?) for Bustice League members.
If you like what you’ve read so far and want to become a defender of democracy, an advocate for justice, and a mighty political organizer, you should join the Bustice League! Come to our official launch party at the Washington Bus office in Pioneer Square on July 6 from 6-8 pm. We’ll bring the snacks, and you can bring your friends. Deal? Check out the Facebook event here and don’t forget to RSVP! If you can’t come to the launch party, but want to learn more about joining the Bustice League, shoot me an e-mail at sophia@washingtonbus.org.

This blog post was written by Sophia Hoffacker, the Bus’s own Field Coordinator.

Our Favorite Made-Up Holiday of the Year!

Our Favorite Made-Up Holiday of the Year!

Okay Washington, now that our true favorite seasons has arrived….

we have some important things on our to-do list. After you figure out your fall look and come to terms with that reading list you’ve been neglecting all summer, we need to talk about about a v. important holiday coming up.

No, no, you still have months to figure out your Halloween costume.

I want to talk to you about National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). NVRD is exactly the kind of holiday it sounds like. It’s an opportunity to register to vote, update your registration and remind your friends, family and community to do the same. You may have heard about one of the Bus’ favorite holidays from our friend President Obama. But maybe you haven’t and you’re wondering why we need a holiday to encourage folks to register to vote. If that’s the case, you’ve come to just the pithy blog to fill you in.

In 2014 alone there were 1,454,738 Washingtonians that were of voting age that didn’t register to vote and weren’t able to participate in last year’s election. Of course voting excludes our immigrant, refugee, undocumented and formerly incarcerated friends, family and communities. But for those that do have access to register to vote, we want to make sure that no one misses an opportunity to participate in an election in Washington State. We all do better when everyone can participate in our democracy. We have so many important decisions ahead of us as a state: funding for public education, moving climate justice forward, banning reparative therapy, and addressing the housing accessibility crisis. You know, just to name a few small things we need to tackle.

Every year in the state of Washington, 96,000 people turn 18. That’s a lot of people who need to register to vote.

If you care about those things or are moved by our impressive .gif collection, knowledge of pop and sports ball things, there are a few things you can do to help us spread the word on NVRD:

  1. Take a look at the Bus’ Facebook page and share our posts. Be sure to use the hashtag #celebrateNVRD
  2. Spread the online voter registration link via social media. In the state of Washington you can register online. Fancy, huh? Check it out: registerinwa.org

You can check out what’s happening in Washington state on National Voter Registration day here on this handy map. If you have any questions or want to get involved send me an email at contact@washingtonbus.org.

On Community Leaders and Heroes

On Community Leaders and Heroes

Gordon Hirabayashi (acttheatre.org)

On Tuesday night, we went to the ACT Theater to see Hold These Truths, a play about Gordon Hirabayashi, one of the few people who resisted against Japanese internment during WWII. The show forced us to confront some uncomfortable truths – the failure of our country to uphold its values, the gross hypocrisy of our government leaders, and the human toll of all of this on Japanese Americans. It was about principles, and more importantly, the courage of the man who maintained them, even in the face of extreme difficulty and injustice. The play allowed me to reflect on my own values, and whether I would uphold them during such difficult times.

Donnie Chin (The International Examiner)

Recently, the International District lost a beloved community leader and hero, Donnie Chin. Much like Hirabayashi, Donnie was a man of values. Throughout his life, he dedicated himself to making his community safe. Donnie was the founder and director of the International District Emergency Center – a community-run safety patrol. He spent his nights watching for crime in the neighborhood, and providing emergency care to those who waiting for an ambulance. “He was like a real life superhero,” Sonny Nguyen recalled, as he told a story in which Donnie helped evacuate an entire building from a fire before the Seattle Fire Department arrived. Last week, we saw more than two hundred community members come together in a barbecue celebrating his life. I was moved by the many lives he has touched, and the compassion and kindness that he embodied.

As we come to a close to our time in Seattle, we have certainly learned a lot about the issues that the city faces. However, more importantly, we have learned about the incredible people and non-profit organizations that stand up to these issues. The work that these organizations do is not easy, but at the end of the day, their passion and courage help sustain their causes even during the most challenging of times.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Americans with Disabilities Act, 25th Anniversary @ Westlake

Americans with Disabilities Act, 25th Anniversary @ Westlake

On July 22nd, Seattle celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Westlake. The first part of the event was devoted to the recognition of donors, sponsors, volunteers, and speakers, and the second half was devoted to a rally.

Over ten organizations volunteered, and the event was sponsored by a number of corporations, government affiliates, and independent donors (I.e. SPD, City Council, the City of Bellevue, Starbucks, Boeing-which-did-not-show-up, etc.).

The Executive Director of the Washington State Independent Living Council (WASILC), Emilio Vela Jr., stated that his favorite part of the event was recognizing those affected by disabilities—he pointed to one fellow stating, “This guy right here was one of the first guys to go to college in Kansas and make a case for accessible entrances, transportation, and walkways.” He further argued, “disability rights are civil rights… it’s about independent living; working and residing where xtyou want, using public transportation, whether you’re deaf or blind or a wheelchair user.”

One speaker evocatively explained how she had developed a debilitating, “invisible,” disability, or a crippling anxiety disorder, and was able to benefit from the ADA  in ways previously thought unimaginable. She claimed, “If it were not for the ADA, [the act] which told my family and my friends, and frankly me, that having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of, I would still be governed by my disability today.” Instead, she is making a difference in Washington State, by servicing those living with disabilities, and engaging folks on the importance of the ADA across the state. Her story dually speaks to the ADA’s protections for those living with mental illness.

Several politicians spoke to the importance of the ADA. Patty Murray, a Washington senator strongly in support of disability rights at both the state and national levels, left an audio message. She stated, “We have so much to celebrate today, but we must also think about what more can be done.” Murray is working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) so that students with disabilities have the opportunity to “work and grow and thrive,” in an increasingly inclusive environment.

On a beautiful sunny day, the ADA was celebrated in a crowded city square—visible, potent, and necessary.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.