Culture3 min read

#5: Arts, Culture & Justice

This discussion guide is designed to get you and your colleagues learning and talking about racism. This guide forms part of a six-week Black Lives Matter Discussion Group series that we had internally at Hive Learning. We’ve published this guide so you can use it to have honest, uncomfortable and entirely necessary conversations about racism with your team, too.

Why we need to talk about this

When it comes to heavy topics like fighting injustice, art can seem like less meaningful work on the surface. At worst, art is seen as a distraction from the “real” work at hand.

In answer to any skeptics, we think this viral tweet says it best:

Tweet by @Lindss_tastic
Resistance is NOT a one lane highway. Maybe your lane is protesting, maybe your lane is organizing, maybe your lane is counseling, maybe your lane is art activism, maybe your lane is surviving the day. Do NOT feel guilty for not occupying every lane. We need all of them.

This discussion guide looks at three different forms of cultural expression that deal with themes of protest, injustice, community, or the Black experience.

Let's do this

Here’s what you’ll need:

Participants: 2+  
Time: 1 hour (plus 30-45 mins to watch, listen to and view the resources)
Difficulty: Easy
Resources: Key resources, discussion questions, anything you usually need for any remote joiners 

This guided discussion will:

⚡ Introduce you to different kinds of art activism (through paintings, music and a mini documentary about London’s Carnival)

⚡ Give your team the chance to share how art has been part of their antiracism journey

⚡ Encourage you to think about the benefits and downsides to art about racial injustice

📺 Key resource 1:  Notting Hill Carnival mini documentary (8 mins)

🔗 Link: https://youtu.be/D9hPWioAl1k 

🎶 Key resource 2: A song called “Strange Fruit”, sung by Billie Holliday (3 mins)

🎨 Key resource 3: Sixty paintings, “The Migration series” by Jacob Lawrence (15 mins+)

🔗 Link: https://lawrencemigration.phillipscollection.org/the-migration-series

Questions to think about and discuss

💡Since Notting Hill Carnival was founded 55 years ago, the UK has become much more multicultural — and so has Carnival. Do you think that’s a good or bad thing? Have you been before? What did you think? Were you aware it has political roots?

💡 Had you heard the song Strange Fruit before? Did you understand its meaning? What does it make you feel or understand? How is the impact different compared to learning about lynchings through factual accounts?

💡 Did you know about The Great Migration before? What was it like to see that history told through this painting series? Did anything about the style, metaphors or motifs strike you? In general, do you think paintings are powerful pieces of protest art compared to music and carnivals?

💡 Do you have to analyze and ‘get’ art about race, community, and justice for it to be valuable? When it is valuable, what forms can that value take?

💡 Are there any cons to art about racial injustice? (either making it, taking it in or its broader impact)

💡 It’s clear that art can confront and challenge injustice. But can art heal or create positivity? How does it/can it do so? Examples are welcome!

One week before 

✅ Send out an email and calendar invitation including the link and discussion questions.

One day before

✅ Send a reminder to everyone to watch, listen to and view and key resources before the session. Note down some of your own thoughts which you can share to prompt others to do the same.

On the day

  1. Welcome everyone and introduce the key resources and discussion topic, which is the role and importance of cultural expression on the subject of racial injustice and the Black experience. (3 mins) 
  2. Ask everyone for their initial thoughts from listening, watching and viewing the different resources. What resonated with them most? (5 mins) 
  3. Work through the discussion questions. Be mindful of the time and nudge the conversation on to the next topic when someone stops speaking. If people need more encouragement to speak, start by sharing your thoughts. (50 mins) 
  4. Wrap up by thanking everyone for attending and for their input. Let everyone know that they are welcome to continue the conversation in your company’s social channels and to share feedback on the discussion with you. (3 mins)

Afterwards

✅ Send a follow-up email to thank participants and to re-share the resources and questions with anyone who couldn’t attend.

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