by Krista Lee
GMC students Owen Tatum and Lily Schulte engaged GMC this semester by giving students social justice prompts of the day for a week in December. This idea came out of a class that Vance Jackson teaches called “Multicultural and Diversity Awareness” that was offered this semester. After a unit of social justice theory Owen and Lily created this project as an opportunity to have students engage in prosocial behavior and critical thinking.
The project was also inspired after another student led project earlier this semester, the consent play & discussion. The consent play and discussion engaged students without making it a formal setting where people were being talked at. The consent play found a way to be funny and serious while engaging the audience in critical thinking and education on a variety of topics including what constitutes as assault, what consent looks like, and how to be an active bystander.
Lily and Owen wanted to create a project that was engaging and allowed conversations to happen over a period of time and have an engaging way to interact with ones education outside of the classroom. Bringing social justice issues to the forefront of the collective consciousness of the student body at GMC. While many students think about this and engage in political action and conversations on a daily basis many do not. This project helped bridge the gap and get students talking from different social groups on topics including the current justice/injustice system, sex work, nonviolent direct action vs. violent direct action, among other topics.
Artists engage in this medium across the nation and globe and Lily and Owen were inspired by Steve Lambart who is an activist artist who uses the public to engage in his art by asking thought provoking questions. “For me, art is a bridge that connects uncommon, idealistic, or even radical ideas with everyday life. I carefully craft various conditions where I can discuss these ideas with people and have a mutually meaningful exchange. I want my art to be relevant to those outside the gallery – say, at the nearest bus stop – to reach them in ways that are engaging and fun.” To see some of Steve’s projects check out his website at http://visitsteve.com/bio/
Through a “Social Justice Prompt of the Day” Owen and Lily’s lined up within the week of Ferguson and stood outside of the GMC dining hall to engage students in talking about what was happening in current events and in the national/global climate. One of the lasting goals of this project is to have a “social justice prompt of the week” on a cardboard sign posted outside of the GMC dining hall each week throughout the semester.
People were meant to examine issues and topics in ways that they may have never, and by looking at social justice topics with empathy through dialogue and conversations and empathetically extend themselves. One of the first steps in realizing social justice and how to be an activist is through listening to other peoples struggles and successes by engaging in dialogue. The importance of meaningful conversations about important topics should never be undervalued because this is often a primary way that change happens, it starts out by people coming together to talk.
If you are interested in other engaging art activist projects check out “Between the Door and the Street” by Suzanne Lacy http://brooklynquarterly.org/stoop-scenes/