This New Web Platform Treads Line Between Art and Activism

ofnotemagazine wants to challenge the standard notion of activism.

In three minutes, you can meet global activists: women fighting their way through the consequences of our contemporary "isms"(think racism, classism, sexism, etc.) with—and through—art.

The place to encounter these artists?, a platform—pedestal, maybe—in the online world where underground artists speak on their creative work.

Grace Aneiza Ali, OF NOTE’s founder, calls this activism. “At the core of any art is storytelling,” she says. “Sometimes these issues are so big that we don’t want to talk about politics or laws—we want to hear stories. You don’t want to hear all the stats about human trafficking, right? But you will watch a documentary, read a poem, or listen to a song. Then it’s transformative. Arts and activism work together because of the stories.”

With this storytelling mission on her mind, Ali wants to challenge the standard notion of activism. Activism, she says, is not always picketing or showing up to be in the front row of the protest. Activism as we know it—the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change—is often a misunderstood or misguided form of communication, sometimes successful, sometimes unproductive. Activism as we know it is a two-dimensional pastime; we think about politics, but forget about art. While covering stories that matter, OF NOTE also collaborates with global organizations already fighting discrimination and oppression in order to show that they can use art to combat policy.

Ali uses Billie Holiday's “Strange Fruit” as an example of the overlap between art and activism. The song was written by a Jewish teacher from the Bronx, Abel Meerpol, as an anti-lynching protest. It is now synonymous with Holiday’s gravely, iconic voice, a work of beauty and art. Another example of this overlap is a women’s cooperative of genocide survivors in Rwanda who paint traditional African shapes onto wooden boards to reconnect with those they lost in 1994. Their cooperative sends the message to the country: We must talk about our pain.

Another one who treads the line between art and activism is Stephen Bennett, who is featured in the current “Girls” issue, on the site through August. Bennett is a muralist who heads Faces of the World, a nonprofit that teaches portrait workshops to indigenous communities. He has traveled to Malaysia, New Guinea, Polynesia, and Seychelles to paint the faces of indigenous girls, who often live in poverty and don’t have access to education.

“He takes a community that is largely invisible and adds so much color and grandiosity,” Ali says. “He uses that to counter their invisibility. The whole point is to pay attention to a group of people who nobody sees.”

Ali, who grew up in Guyana, a South American country with 36.6 percent living in moderate poverty, understands the complexity of reporting stories from afar to an American audience. “Talking about girls and what girls confront is close to me because I’ve lived it,” she says. “I didn’t want to tell cookie-cutter stories—I wanted to be realistic. Like, ‘There’s still a major, major problem, but these are the ways these women are overcoming, whether it’s through a big documentary or a mural on the wall.’ These artists make you recognize that your experience is vastly different.”

That is the art of activism.

Inspired by what you see here? Spread a little inspiration yourself, and share it with the GOOD community. Click here to add this to your to do list.

Images courtesy of Stephen Bennett

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet