Art, in its many forms, possesses great transformative power, especially when confronting and challenging racism. Conversations about racism and intolerance can often trigger hostility and turn confrontational, but art can serve as an effective medium and tool to guide, supplement, and explore the words that accompany the ongoing antiracism efforts taking place – not just in the United States, but all over the world.
The stories in this collection show the powerful effect art, music, and culture can have in inspiring meaningful dialogue, explore and ease the root of long-standing tensions, and bring about positive change within individuals, and by extension, their communities.
Student experience and critical analysis level: introductory
- Compare the Mostar Rock School with the Harmony Project. In what ways are the projects similar? How are they different? How do cultural challenges impact the goals and accomplishments of each?
- How did the Mural Movement scale across the United States? What made its scaling possible?
- What lessons can other institutions trying to support indigenous communities learn from Miami University's work with the Miami tribe?
- Mary Beth Meehan's art installation in Newnan, GA was provocative because it forced residents to confront the dissonance between their impression of their community and the reality of their community. Consider the demographics of your own community. Does your circle of acquaintances accurately reflect the community? What biases or gaps in knowledge might be reinforced by your personal connections?
- Pick 5 works of art and organize them into a mini-syllabus surrounding the intersection of race and culture. Consider all art forms - film, literature, photography, sculpture, performance art.... explain how your selected works of art inform each other and/or provide contrasting perspectives.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
article summaries and themes
In Chicago, IL, a mural project started in the city to express race, gun violence, and economic inequities but managed to scale the project to cities around the United States.
In the small city of Newnan, Georgia, Audra Burch writes about 17 large portraits of community members that changed citizens’ perceptions of themselves, allowing them to see their own evident blind spots and hidden racial tensions where they previously thought of themselves as inclusive and open-minded.
In Bosnia, Gillian Dohrn writes about Mostar Rock School, a musical endeavor bringing together two communities with a historical divide — Croats and Muslims. The school has become a place of socio-cultural intersection where Croat and Muslim students interact and make music together, defying tensions and divides spurred after the Bosnian war.
In Philadelphia, Jill Harkins writes about how a program like the Harmony Project in Columbus, OH could present a solution to the city's ongoing struggle with racial segregation.
In Oxford, Ohio, Mary Annette Pember writes about the partnership between Miami University and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to create the Myaamia Center, a language preservation initiative. The collaboration began in the early 1970s and continues today as an example of how majority white academic institutions can start, continue, or improve their cultural inclusivity and bring about social change by building relationships with indigenous peoples.
- Both programs are using live music education and practice to bridge cultural barriers; in Bosnia, the divide is between two ethnic groups still experiencing hostilities after the Bosnian war in the 1990s. In Columbus, OH, the divide was between racial identities and income levels. MRS prioritizes creating a calm, safe space for families to come together and coexist; the Harmony Project pairs free music programming with requirements for community service involvement.
- Specialized groups allow the participants to discuss the unique implications of their marginalized identities and work together to overcome barriers within a supportive community that empathizes with their needs.
- The success of this partnership can be largely attributed to the respect and attention afforded to the needs of the indigenous community; the partnership grew organically in response to the needs of the tribe, rather than according to a pre-set or externally imposed structure. The partnership between the university and the tribe is led by the tribe, not the institution: tribe members retain all control over their cultural and intellectual property. University administrators ask tribal leaders for input on relevant university decisions like hiring a new president.
- Answers will vary.
- Answers will vary; more information about art and racial equity can be found here and here.