Art for Social Change

As the events in Washington, D.C. unfolded on January 6, BFA candidate Imani McCray (graphic design) was on site with his camera and captured the image above. The artist travels frequently to the capitol to document change. He writes:

I have come to DC countless times to document change, but January 6th was a sight that should have been relegated only to horror movies and pre-reconstruction ignorance—not 2021. Black Lives Matter Plaza sets the scene for my day. All of DC was swarmed by the delusional and privileged as they marched on the Capitol, inflamed by the (former) President of the United States and a barrage of lies about election fraud. Individuals proudly carrying racist and hateful symbols appropriated a form of protest often utilized by marginalized, at-risk, and oppressed minorities. Like most forms of appropriation, this mob picked and chose information and tactics most beneficial for them to implore out of context. They chanted “Stop the Steal”, while waving confederate flags and clapping on the one and three. Yet, instead of a peaceful protest protected by the First Amendment, they felt entitled to break barriers and ransack the very symbol of democracy in America—the United States Capitol—destroying property, threatening leaders, and taking lives in the process. (All while taking selfies and boasting about their exploits on social media.)

As a minority I have marched in solidarity with others striving to defend our most basic human rights to life, to freedom, to vote, and to love in public without the threat of an oppressive society continuing to cause us harm. Protesters have occupied streets and been used in social justice movements to remind others of our humanity. What we witnessed wasn’t protest—peaceful or otherwise. It was an insurrection and the manifestation and mass personification of white privilege and fragility.  The mob implored the tactics of a victimhood mentality, while simultaneously showing a broad sense of entitlement. They should be held accountable for their actions and not allowed to shrink back into the shadows of ignorance and hate.

For the last four years, we have watched as America’s darker truths were aired for the entire world to see. We have watched white privilege documented and the murder of black bodies go without justice. America has never been the land of the free, but we have always believed we can be more. The entire world has had to adapt to the adversity of a global pandemic and overcome the fear of the unknown. The American dream is based on success through adversity. The American reality is adversity reveals character and many Americans should be ashamed of what happened on January 6 and all that led up to it. From the ones that stormed the Capitol with malicious intent, to the ones that allow ignorance to go unchecked, and all the in-between—we all hold responsibility. There is always room to be better and be the change you want to see. As Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate said at the inauguration of a new President, “There is always a light if we’re brave enough to see it. There’s always a light if we’re brave enough to be it.” I aim for my photography and Be the Change to be a path forward with both truth and light.

McCray’s fall publication “Be the Change You Want to See” is a call to action and social justice. It’s informative, with compelling imagery throughout. The artist crowdfunded the work, shifting in his academic discipline in order to create the product.

Learn more:

ECU student creates call to action with photo-journalism campaign

McCray’s website: Be the Change