Connect with us

Activism

COMMENTARY: Artworks Capturing Political Chaos Rejected by Billboard Companies

People For the American Way will use billboards and social media to bring the censored artwork to Georgia voters and to people around the country who care about the issues that are at stake in this year’s elections.

Published

on

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book "Never Forget Our People Were Always Free" will be published by Harper Collins in January 2023.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book "Never Forget Our People Were Always Free" will be published by Harper Collins in January 2023.

By Ben Jealous

Art can be a powerful tool for social change. Sometimes that threatens people in power.

Right now, some of America’s greatest artists are contributing their time and creative talents to remind voters in Georgia what is at stake in this year’s elections. And a couple of national billboard companies are refusing to let People For the American Way share some of those images with voters.

The Georgia billboards are part of a multimedia campaign to remind voters—especially Black men—why Republican candidates Brian Kemp and Herschel Walker are the wrong choices in this election. Georgia is ground zero for attacks on our democracy by MAGA extremists with agendas calculated to stop progress.

The billboard campaign is designed to expose hard truths to voters in a way that makes these attacks real—and motivates people to vote. “As artists, we can create art that addresses the ills of systems that devastate the fabric of our families, our communities, and our nation,” says renowned multimedia artist Carrie Mae Weems. “Artistic expression can inspire people to channel their energy into voting for a better future for everyone.”

The billboard campaign is also part of a broader long-term project to engage artists in making political and social change. As a longtime civil rights leader, I know that there is a long lineage of artists whose music, poetry, spoken word, and visual arts have helped energize our great social justice movements.

Weems and other artists participating in this campaign have taken their place in that honorable history. They include Victoria Cassinova, Shepard Fairey, Alyson Shotz, Deborah Kass, and Cleon Peterson.

Shotz, whose art depicts the attack on the U.S. Capitol by people trying to prevent a peaceful transfer of power after Trump lost the 2020 election, notes that art played a crucial role in the national mobilization to defeat fascism in the 1940s. “Now this task is upon us again, to fight the power of authoritarians and conspiracists, racists and nativists and fear-mongers,” she says. “It falls to us, We the People, to save democracy, through our actions, through our art, through our votes.”

Art can speak to our hearts. That’s part of its power to provoke thought, emotion, and action. And that is why censorship is often a weapon wielded by those who fear art’s motivating power.

“The personal and political chaos in our world is a direct result of the violence against human beings in the name of power,” says Peterson, whose art installations depicting white supremacist gun violence and attacks on reproductive choice were rejected by billboard owners. “The art for these billboards depicts the rawness and the terror of those struggles and I hope it’s enough to move the people of Georgia to action in this midterm election.”

Kass contributed an installation that includes the faces of five far-right Supreme Court justices—a clear reminder that the courts and all the rights that depend on a fair and independent judiciary to uphold them—are at stake in this election.

People For the American Way will use billboards and social media to bring the censored artwork to Georgia voters and to people around the country who care about the issues that are at stake in this year’s elections.

There is no doubt that art expressing the harsh realities people face in their daily lives can be jarring. But that is no reason to turn away.

“There’s a short line between the intense reactions to the art depictions and the urgency that we carry to the ballot box,” says my colleague Svante Myrick, executive director of People For the American Way. “If this artwork offends you, wait to see what happens if you don’t vote.”

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in January 2023.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activism

Community Celebrates Historic Oakland Billboard Agreements

We, the Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition, which includes Oakland’s six leading community health clinics, all ethnic chambers of commerce, and top community-based economic development organizations – celebrate the historic billboard agreements approved last year by the Oakland City Council. We have fought for this opportunity against the billboard monopoly, against Clear Channel, for five years. The agreements approved by Council set the bar for community benefits – nearly $70 Million over their lifetime, more than 23 times the total paid by all previous Clear Channel relocation agreements in Oakland combined.

Published

on

The Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition.
The Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition.

Grand Jury Report Incorrect – Council & Community Benefit

We, the Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition, which includes Oakland’s six leading community health clinics, all ethnic chambers of commerce, and top community-based economic development organizations – celebrate the historic billboard agreements approved last year by the Oakland City Council. We have fought for this opportunity against the billboard monopoly, against Clear Channel, for five years. The agreements approved by Council set the bar for community benefits – nearly $70 Million over their lifetime, more than 23 times the total paid by all previous Clear Channel relocation agreements in Oakland combined.

Unfortunately, a recent flawed Grand Jury report got it wrong, so we feel compelled to correct the record:

  1. Regarding the claim that the decision was made hastily, the report itself belies that claim. The process was five years in the making, with two and a half years from the first City Council hearing to the final vote. Along the way, as the report describes, there were multiple Planning Commission hearings, public stakeholder outreach meetings, a Council Committee meeting, and then a vote by the full Council. Not only was this not hasty, it had far more scrutiny than any of the previous relocation agreements approved by the City with Clear Channel, all of which provide 1/23 of the benefits of the Becker/OFI agreements approved by the Council.
  2. More importantly, the agreements will actually bring millions to the City and community, nearly $70M to be exact, 23 times the previous Clear Channel relocation agreements combined. They certainly will not cost the city money, especially since nothing would have been on the table at all if our Coalition had not been fighting for it. Right before the decisive City Council Committee hearing, in the final weeks before the full Council vote, there was a hastily submitted last-minute “proposal” by Clear Channel that was debunked as based on non-legal and non-economically viable sites, and relying entirely on the endorsement of a consultant that boasts Clear Channel as their biggest client and whose decisions map to Clear Channel’s monopolistic interests all over the country. Some City staff believed these unrealistic numbers based on false premises, and, since they only interviewed City staff, the Grand Jury report reiterated this misinformation, but it was just part of Clear Channel’s tried and true monopolistic practices of seeking to derail agreements that actually set the new standard for billboard community benefits. Furthermore, our proposals are not mutually exclusive – if Clear Channel’s proposal was real, why had they not brought it forward previously? Why have they not brought it forward since? Because it was not a real proposal – it was nothing but smoke and mirrors, as the Clear Channel’s former Vice President stated publicly at Council.

Speaking on behalf of the community health clinics that are the primary beneficiaries of the billboard funding, La Clinica de la Raza CEO Jane Garcia, states: “In this case, the City Council did the right thing – listening to the community that fought for five years to create this opportunity that is offering the City and community more than twenty times what previous billboard relocation agreements have offered.”

 

Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition

Native American Health Center La Clínica de la Raza West Oakland Health Center
Asian Health Services Oakland LGBTQ Center Roots Community Health Center
The Unity Council Black Cultural Zone Visit Oakland
Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce Building Trades of Alameda County (partial list)
Continue Reading

Activism

Grocery Inflation Causes Food Banks to be the Default for Families in Oakland

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

Published

on

Photo: iStock image.
Photo: iStock image.

By Magaly Muñoz

During the past three years, the US has seen the largest increase in food prices since the 1980s. In response to this crisis, community food banks have emerged to provide much-needed assistance to families in need.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that national food prices have increased 11% from 2021 to 2022, when the average yearly increase was previously 2%. The San Francisco Bay Area saw a 12% increase from 2021 to 2022.

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

While still maintaining that elevated prices will persist for the foreseeable future, Morris anticipates a decrease of 8% in food price increases.

He also stated that while the average person may spend 10% of their income on groceries, a low-income family may spend 30%, making the inflation in food prices that much harsher.

“Higher food prices can put people in a position where they have to make some tough choices between ‘can they go to the grocery store and buy food’ or ‘do they have to spend it on other necessities like home or health care or other things,’” Morris said.

Michael Altfest is the Director of Community Engagement and Marketing for Alameda County (AC) Food Bank, the primary food distributor in the county with over 400 community partners that receive frequent donations.

Altfest shared that from 2019 to 2023, the number of pounds of food distributed to their community partners has doubled. In 2019, the food bank distributed 32.5 million pounds of food, while in 2021 during the height of the pandemic, they distributed 58.1 million pounds. This year they are on pace to distribute almost 60 million pounds of food.

“If we’re on pace this year to provide more than we did in the pandemic, I think that says a lot about what the state of hunger is right now,” Altfest said.

During the height of the pandemic, state and federal government relief programs helped families offset significant expenses like groceries. These programs included the child tax credit increase that put anywhere from $2,000 up to $3,600 back into qualifying families pockets when filing their yearly taxes.

Another program that directly targeted food insecurity, was the increase in funds for SNAP or CalFresh. These government programs provide food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people to help them maintain adequate nutrition and health. But earlier this spring, funding was cut from the state program CalFresh and families saw at least a $95 decrease in their assistance.

“Every single person talks about the cost of living in Alameda County, every single person. The cost of rent, the cost of food, those are things that come up every single time without fail,” Altfest shared.

One of AC Food Bank’s community partners is Homies Empowerment, a non-profit in Oakland that was established as a means to support youth and the community through a positive lens.

Selena Duarte, the FREEdom Store Coordinator, said the organization’s initiative to help families with food provision began in May of 2020 when their original store was filled only with books and students told them that while it was nice to have things to read, “they can’t eat books,” showing the team at Homies Empowerment that there were bigger needs in the community that they had to address.

Since then, the organization has expanded its services. They now provide groceries every Tuesday, have established the FREEdom Farm where they grow produce that gets distributed in their make-shift store, offer hot breakfast to 40 students and their families five days a week, and much more.

Duarte said that they serve almost 400 families a week and they are continuing to expand their food services due to the increasing number of people coming to them seeking help to reduce their spending on groceries. She recognized that although people say that the “pandemic is over”, she knows that the stress that families are experiencing is still very real.

“The next phase is really becoming a sustainable community food hub, where literally we can grow, share, cook, and store our food here in the community and for the community,” Duarte said.

Continue Reading

Activism

Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

Published

on

To enlarge your view of this issue, use the slider, magnifying glass icon or full page icon in the lower right corner of the browser window.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending

Copyright ©2021 Post News Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.