Art and Change: The People's Climate March

"Artists were not just a side component of the People's Climate March.  Artists were the glue."  --Artist-Activist Favianna Rodriguez, poster art above.

Over 300,000 people flooded NYC streets this last Sunday (9/21) to demand just action on our swiftly warming planet.  This historic march was an impressive display of solidarity among a diverse crowd of people, including indigenous communities, folks who work on Wall St, local high school students, vegans, labor, and every kind of religious and spiritual tradition. 

I walked away even more convinced about the power of art in social change movements. 

Artist-activist-intellectual Favianna Rodriguez, in partnership with CultureStrike and 300 other artists, were out in full effect at the march, telling the many stories of migrant communities, communities of color, shoreline communities, and all the people hardest hit by global warming. 

 Photo: CultureStrike

Photo: CultureStrike

Art has the power to communicate a strong compelling message, FAST.  This is the point of public demonstrations, and why art is so vital. 

Art also has the power to engage new voices and lift up the experiences that have been marginalized.  At this march, artist collaboration helped bring forth the participation and expression of people who are not stereotypically thought of in the "environmental movement," radically embodying the march slogan, "to change everything, we need everyone." 

 Photo: Mark Thompson

Photo: Mark Thompson

"The power of culture is often underestimated within the field of social change.  Culture is the realm of ideas, images and stories; it is where people make sense of the world, where they find meaning and forge community.  Culture alters the way people think about—or choose to ignore or reject—an issue or policy.  It affects how people think, interact, react, speak, write and vote."  (The Culture Group 2011, p.1).

 Photo: Mark Thompson

Photo: Mark Thompson

As an organizer, I am committed to integrating art and culture into my work because I recognize it is a powerful tool to shape our stories and our prophetic voice, strengthen leadership development and build more vibrant campaigns.  To shift culture and move social justice policy, we have to move away from relying only on data and statistics to make our case.  In order to ignite and engage our society, in order to paint a new vision for the future, we have to let creativity lead. 

Pictured:  Me working with CultureStrike and Communities Creating Opportunity in Kansas City (May 2013) for an immigration reform action with Senator Moran.  We made sunflowers, the Kansas state flower, to represent people's desire to become citizens.