Hip-Hop meets Occupation

A cultural movement in search of a political movement meets a political movement in search of an artistic force.

They say every movement has its soundtrack; but this film metaphor doesn’t come close to capturing the way that music’s unique combination of word and sound has been integral to progressive and radical change throughout the century. From South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, to the freedom songs of the US civil rights struggle, musical rhythms have fueled the very heartbeat of social movements — strengthening bonds within groups, creating space to connect across racial and cultural lines, educating about issues, engaging emotions, and tapping into deeply held political and spiritual beliefs.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, and the larger anti-capitalist sentiment from which it derives its strength, does not have a coherent soundtrack. While musicians of all stripes have taken the movement and its “99%” message as inspiration, and arts of many kinds have popped up at occupation sites, there is no set of “occupation songs” that drive the movement. This may in part be a result of the very wide net the movement is trying to draw — certainly 99% of the population could never agree on liking the same music. But if I had to put my money on one genre that has the potential to unite young occupiers across the country, and the world, it would be hip-hop music — with its wide appeal, roots in rebelliousness, and long history of political and social critique (sorry, folk music).

Meanwhile, conscious hip-hop has long been a cultural movement in search of a political one. (more…)

Occupy Design

Poster by Favianna Rodriguez

The occupy mobilizations have become famous, or perhaps infamous, for their creative, homemade cardboard signage. But across the country, graphic designers are stepping in as well to bring their particular expertise to the effort to craft a visual language for occupiers. These artists, either independently or as subcommittees of occupy mobilizations, are using graphic design to inspire, to diversify the movement, and to educate others about economic inequality.

Occupy Design is a group of designers, artists, and organizers, seeking to “provide a universal visual toolset for the Occupy movement which crosses language barriers and brings a strong visual identity to the movement.” They are calling for people to submit work, and have launched their site with a set of “infographics” that communicate the core concepts of economic inequality in ways that transcend language. It is their way of contributing to a unifying message for the movement.

Occupy Design Infographic

The Occupied Wall Street Journal is apparently going to be printing posters in an upcoming issue, and Favianna Rodriguez, an artist with Justseeds Artist Cooperative, has shared her piece for it, the poster shown at the beginning of this post. (more…)

The Occupied Wall Street Journal

Today the first edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal is making the rounds, hand to hand, in New York City. In this “public art project,” articles by Journal co-founder Arun Gupta and former NY Times reporter Chris Hedges sit alongside a “Declaration of the Occupation.”

The growing occupation of the New York City financial district has caught the attention of news organizations around the country, but not to the extent, or with the depth and care, that those taking part would like. In response, Gupta and his partner Jed Brandt put together Occupy Wall Street Media to take the message into their own hands. As important as it is to work on catching the eye of mainstream media, any potential movement needs to take action to shape its own narrative. Gupta brings a lot of experience in this, as the general manager of the Indypendent, a free NYC-based progressive newspaper, affiliated with New York Indymedia.

Though I have yet to get my hands on a copy, a number of things about this paper are exciting to me (more…)