Mississippi has a thick heritage of arts and culture given to us by a vast diversity of artists and musicians: much of this, like the blues, originated entirely from black Mississippians. We could not list all of these artists here and no doubt still have more to meet. How old were you when you first read Richard Wright? How old were you when you first listened to Robert Johnson? When did you learn about opera singer Elizabeth Greenfield? Have you seen Saul Haymond’s work? Heard Teneia Sanders? Read Kiese Laymon? Watched Sharon Miles or seen the work of her brother Sky? There’s a long list of artists, both past and present, who have contributed and are contributing to our shared culture and heritage.
We are not blind to the history that binds us as a community and separates us individually. Despite their contributions, people of color have been treated differently and still live in a fractured Mississippi within a fractured America. That fact is not reflective of the true meaning of “community,” however it may be defined. SAAC’s mission--to build a strong, creative, connected community through art--compels us to acknowledge, understand, and address what stops us from building that very community.
We honor and recognize the importance of our diverse artistic heritage and disavow any system that hurts our black community. The power of art is not conditional. We do not believe that the work of artists and writers and musicians of color must be rooted solely in this pain or dark history. Artists and writers and musicians of color should, moreover, be free from any system that creates that pain or extends that dark history.
We stand behind our fellow artists, writers, and musicians of color and demand for more than good, but better. Better efforts for equity and equality and access. Better efforts to dismantle lingering vestiges of a flawed caste system, wherever they may exist. Better treatment of others, regardless of color of skin. SAAC is not alone in advocating for these changes.
Certainly, there are other forms of bias. Today, however, the issue at hand, the house that is burning, is racism. None of us can tackle this system alone. The solutions may be many. We offer one: support writers, artists, and musicians of color. They’ve inherited a painful brunt of this system. Buy their books. Buy their artwork. Buy their music. Buy these as gifts for others. Support art education programs that reach communities of color who do not have access to lessons or art supplies or art teachers. Volunteer. Donate. Share resources. It doesn’t require a 5-figure check. Ask organizations what is needed. Listen. Pause. Listen again.
Together, we can do this. Together, we should do this. Thank you for helping build a strong, creative connected community through art.
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