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  • I don't know.

  • I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and I didn't know very many white people.

  • But I was raised in the Southern Black Church that was under the shadow of white supremacy and run by black people who in many ways we're taught to hate themselves.

  • The generation that raised me was still familiar with lynchings.

  • So in order to not be murdered by racist, some of the black people in the generation before me learn to make themselves smaller.

  • We couldn't be too loud, too smart, two attractive to bold.

  • On some level, they felt like anything that we did that made us stand out might get us murdered.

  • In the midst of that, I emerged this straight, a student who wrapped, left without Yankovic and read comic books.

  • So much for not standing out.

  • So the grownups around me regularly discouraged my artistry to them comic books with the pursuit of a kid who didn't really understand the world.

  • They told me that art was silly and I was in for some hard lessons about the real world.

  • Back then, I only had one other friend who was in the comic books, and he went to a different school.

  • So when I was around 11, he and I went to our very first comic book convention.

  • They were so unused to seeing black kids there that one grown white man mistook me for security and show me his convention badge in order to get in.

  • Remember, I was 11, but me and my friend love these conventions.

  • Finally, we had other people to talk to about the important questions like Why does the Hulk always wear purple pants?

  • About a year or so later, with every free moment that we had, me and that same friend were actively drawing comic books.

  • His father took notice of this, and he sat us down in their living room.

  • He loved us both, and he decided it was time to set us straight.

  • He said, It's great that you to love these comic books, but you need to pick a serious profession, something that's going to take care of you and your families, and you're not gonna be able to do that with comic books.

  • My friend's father wasn't trying to hurt us.

  • He was trying to prepare us for the world, and underneath that was this fear that was shared by my own parents that being a black artist would make me stand out and that I might be murdered by racist.

  • And it's not like that was a far jump.

  • My parents were born in the early fifties, 1955 a white woman accused of 14 year old boy of whistling at her.

  • He was black, and two grown white men brutally murdered him just for her accusation.

  • These men never went to prison.

  • The boy's name was Emmett Till.

  • So my parents grew up in a time where just the accusation of whistling at a white woman could get a black boy brutally murdered.

  • So why wouldn't they be concerned about me standing out a some bohemian, artsy dude so as a black artist have had to ask myself, when the world seems like it's burning?

  • Is art really worth it?

  • I grew up and I worked seriously jobs and did are on the side.

  • Let me tell you about the most serious job that I ever worked.

  • I ran an insurance agency, and I know everything that you've learned about me so far.

  • Screams insurance agent.

  • Predictably, I hated that job.

  • So after a few years, and against all the wise advice I heard in my life, I decided to close my insurance agency and try my hand at writing graphic novels.

  • I wanted toe address, the social issues that I was passionate about.

  • Police brutality, sexism, racism, that kind of thing.

  • But to make it clear, I was leaving the serious insurance job in order to pursue writing comic books.

  • You know, art, which is silly, especially in the face of a world that seemed dedicated to murdering me.

  • This was 2016, and there was this reality show host running for president.

  • You guys probably never heard of him.

  • But there are all these disturbing things arising in the world.

  • Nazis air Feeling bolder, people are feeling less shame about their racism.

  • Hate crimes arising In response, my black and brown friends organized public protests and boycotts.

  • Ah, lot of my liberal white friends were marching on the capital every weekend, and I I wanted to write a comic book.

  • Was it being silly?

  • Vain?

  • I never made a living off of our before, and now I just quit my job when it seemed like the world was falling apart.

  • Artists silly right.

  • I struggle with this for a while, so I took a month to travel in the U.

  • K for the first time.

  • I was nervous about this trip because I was traveling alone and I didn't know how people in these countries felt about black people.

  • But I went to Berlin, Prague, Budapest and this tiny British town called Milk Shin in Berlin.

  • I sat down with the owner of the biggest comic bookstore chain there, and we talked about how, as a kid, his favorite hero was Captain America.

  • But certain issues that a comic book he never got to read as a kid because Captain America was fighting Nazis in those books and nothing with Nazis was a god in Germany, even if they were getting beat up.

  • So let's think about that for a moment.

  • In Germany, Nazis were banished from everything while here in the States, we've erected statues to confederates who betrayed our country.

  • Anyway, I thought about this man, this comic book fan who grew up in Germany but fell in love with the story of an American icon, and I realized a well written comic book or graphic novel could reach someone all the way across the world, and I thought about revolution.

  • How whenever society needs to change that changes inspired at least in part by the artist thought about how dictators and despots regularly murder and discredit artists.

  • Hitler's people came up with the term specifically to discredit artist degenerate art.

  • They were burning books and paintings.

  • But why?

  • Why were the leaders of the Nazi Party dedicating their attention to destroying art?

  • If are really has no power?

  • If it's really a silly waste of time, then why are dictators afraid of it?

  • Why would Nazis burning books and paintings?

  • Why was McCarthy so dedicated toe blacklisting artists in the 19 fifties?

  • Why was Stalin's government so focused on censoring artist in Russia?

  • Because art scares dictators because they understood something that I've been struggling to understand my entire life.

  • Art is powerful.

  • Art is important.

  • Art can change hearts and minds all the way across the world.

  • In 18 94 Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote, The Kingdom of God Is Within you.

  • It's a book that advocates for non violence.

  • In the 19 twenties, Mahatma Gandhi listed Tolstoy's book as one of the three most important influences in his life.

  • So Tolstoy inspired Gandhi.

  • You know, Gandhi inspired Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

  • So how would the civil rights movement in America have changed?

  • If Tolstoy had never written his book, would I even be here talking to you now?

  • Tolstoy's book made real changes in the world by inspiring people during the civil rights struggle.

  • Black people would stand hand in hand as police and dogs attacked us, and we think gospel songs, those songs that art inspired these people and it helped them make it through activism is how we change the world and the different ways to engage in activism.

  • And for me, that way is art.

  • So I came back to the States and I wrote about all those issues that I mentioned before.

  • The police brutality, the sexism, the racism.

  • Honestly, I didn't know how the world was going to receive it from me.

  • I just knew that I was tired of giving my life two things that I didn't care about, so I hired a comic book artist.

  • I ran a Kickstarter campaign, and my graphic novel became the burning metronome.

  • It's a supernatural murder mystery about otherworldly creatures who absorbed magical power from human cruelty.

  • They watch human beings, and they give us the chance to choose between compassion and cruelty.

  • In one of the stories of police, Officer has an opportunity to go back and undo a time when he was unnecessarily violent to someone.

  • So what happened as a result of me writing this book?

  • I was interviewed on TV, news, newspapers.

  • The university invited me to teach writing in the Masters program.

  • I'm a professor now, but more importantly, I was able to reach into my heart, pull out the truest parts of my soul and see it have a positive impact on other people's lives.

  • I was signing books in this comic book store, and this man made small talk with me for about 20 minutes.

  • Eventually, he said that my book made him think about how he does his job.

  • So, of course, I was asked, What do you do for a living?

  • He was a police officer, so my book made a police officer think about how he does this job.

  • That never happened when I sold insurance, alright, comic books and graphic novels for a living.

  • Now I'm a full time artist.

  • If I hadn't written that book.

  • None of you would be listening to me right now.

  • And listen.

  • My parents weren't wrong.

  • Toe warned me about the lethal tendencies of this country just last year.

  • Ah, white supremacist sent me death threats over a book that I hadn't even finished writing yet.

  • But obviously the only reason he was threatened is because he recognized the power of art to change hearts and minds all the way across the world.

  • So I say to you now, if there's any art you want to create, if there's something in your heart, if you have something to say, we need you now.

  • Your art can be activism.

  • It can inspire people and change the world.

  • If you're afraid, that's okay.

  • Just don't let it stop.

  • You go make art and scare a dictator is are worth it.

  • Hell, yeah.

  • Thank you.

I don't know.

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When the world is burning, is art a waste of time? | R. Alan Brooks

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/02/18
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