Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Lupita Nyong’o, John Legend, and Questlove are just a handful of the more than 1,000 Black directors, performers, artists, and writers demanding change in the arts, entertainment, and beyond in a call to action issued in honor of Juneteenth. In a statement made Friday, Black Artists for Freedom, “a collective of Black workers in the culture industries,” called on creators to battle racial injustice in their fields. “Culture alone cannot fix systemic racism,” the letter reads. “But culture is strongly connected to racism’s material effects, and the violence against us.”
“Racist stereotypes of Black criminality, monstrosity, unchecked rage, hyper-sexuality, immunity to pain, and so on, are still recycled today in books, films, and on the Internet,” their statement explains. “Consciously and unconsciously, these stereotypes are invoked — in everyday interactions and in courts of law — as reasons why Black people do not deserve human rights. We do not wish merely to modify or alleviate this racist culture. We aim to eliminate it.”
So, how can creators prioritize anti-racism in their work? Good question, and Black Artists for Freedom provides five guidelines for achieving that goal: Break ties with the police, spend money to recruit and support Black workers, advocate for Black people in leadership positions, educate yourself on the history of systemic racism, and, finally, “imagine Black freedom,” instead of relegating Black creators to specific subjects or stereotypes. Read their statement, and its lengthy list of signees, in its entirety here.