What is Truth to Power?
“To launch Rock the Vote’s Truth to Power campaign to engage and mobilize young people in the 2016 election, join artists and activists from across the nation coming together against the backdrop of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
In partnership with #Cut50 and other national and community partners, Rock the Vote will host a large-scale pop-up art exhibition, discussion forum and live performances designed to elevate and illuminate the most pressing issues facing young people in the United States today.
Together we will lift our voices, identify solutions and get organized to speak truth to power in November.”
I attended the first night of the The Truth to Power (TTP) series (July 25-27). I walked in and studied the workings of Philadelphia’s tight nit community of movers and shakers. Men were dressed sharply in crisp khaki pants, nonchalantly cuffed, revealing bare ankles above bright white Reeboks or Adidas sneakers. Broad shoulders gave form to freshly pressed collared short sleeved shirts, buttoned high to Adam’s apples, shadowed by handsomely groomed beards. Hair was cut in either classic all American fades or pulled slickly into the ubiquitous top not. Cigarettes dangled from slack lips. People arrived laughing loudly and smiling . Large gauged ears swung as shoulders pressed in hugs and hand clasps. Septum piercings were worn by many. Wild curls framed faces, tight dresses hugged hips, minimalism shrieked loudly in the form of simple black pants, white loose tops, messy buns and small gold studs and rings. The vibe was “you got to be down to enter”.
The evenings festivities included a bar , a live DJ and a performance by the lovely Andra Day. I arrived early and wandered around the venue which consisted of two rooms – the art gallery and the performance space. I went into the gallery and was blown away. The art pieces varied from sculpture to photography, paintings to hanging instillation pieces from artists such as Shepard Fairey and Banksy (see all artists here) The themes were provocation, deviance, vulnerability and the exposure of the government’s failings. Centered around minority populations within America, the exhibition displayed critiques of White supremacy, the criminal justice system, economic inequality, patriarchy and environmental decline. The art work felt like it pointed a stiff finger towards the left of my chest and pushed hard until I found my ass on the floor.
Unlike the censored political narratives being pushed by the media that leave me dazed and confused, the art of Truth to Power helped me to connect politics directly to all that matters the most to me – people. It smacked me in the face with the issues that I have become accustomed to tolerating as if they are normal, as if they are out of my control. Citizens are being executed by police by an alarming rate of 3 deaths per day, immigrants are stripped of their humanity and dignity and the disparity between rich and poor, black and white, them and us is growing with no near halt in the future. What the fuck do we do?
I left the event without any answers. Beyond being included with the “cool crowd”, I left without the spirited camaraderie needed to keep people inspired with the will to fight for one another. I am not sure that those haunting artistic visuals helped me to feel more empowered to partake in politics within the construct of this system. I feel like we wondered the gallery in a stylish stupor of cognizant dissonance, aware that the stakes were high, aware that all evidence points to corruption and that the real power is held in the hands of the few, yet like a dehydrated and starving caravan we stumble towards a wavy mirage of democracy.
I am not criticizing this event. I think it is so very necessary and amazing. It has brought up so much for me. I needed this. We need this. My experience was only limited to the night time portion of this amazing event. I am fully aware that it has so much more to offer. From 11am to 7pm there is an amazing line up of FREE discussions that bring focus and perhaps offer answers and sympathy to those cynical and scared like me. Here is the schedule of times and topics. I will be sure to go to see the other side to this series as well.
To all those in Philly please attend this event, please. Let me know what it meant to you.