The Arts

How we can reflect on Black History Month's theme of resistance

Art is a powerful medium for any message, and for Black artists, it's been a way to document history and what's needed for future change.

How we can reflect on Black History Month's theme of resistance
Scripps News

The studio of visual artist Aramis Hamer is a technicolor universe, where the longer you stare into her muse's eyes, the louder their wordless stories become.

"I definitely draw inspiration from Black girl magic, like pretty much my identity and my experience of being a Black woman," she said.

These stories are joyful, powerful, and uninhibited.

"I wanted to create a space for these women so that they felt safe to do that because we also live in a world, especially Black women, where we're not given the space to be confident and powerful and strong because the world is just trying to dim that light," she said.

Julie Heide's artwork of Black jazz artists

Teacher pays tribute to jazz history, Black artists with community art

Being a part of the Black Lives Matter movement and seeing her students take a stand at a young age inspired Julie Heide's artistic approach.


Art is a powerful medium for any message, and for Black artists, it's been a way to document both history and what's needed to go into the future to change it.

"Art inspires us, empowers us to go out and change what needs to be changed," said LaNesha DeBardelaben, the president and CEO of Seattle's Northwest African American Museum (NAAM).

NAAM is exploring the role of resistance — as it is the theme of this year's Black History Month — in the story of Black people in this country. DeBardelaben says there would be no story without it.

A mural is painted on the side of a building in Indianapolis.

A celebration of Black art shines a light on museums' promises

In the summer of 2020, 18 artists came together to decorate the city in honor of the Black Lives Matter Movement.


"Resistance, to me, is a role call of all of the African Americans, everyday folks who chose a different way. One that worked for their humanity and for the humanity of others," she said.

From abolitionists to civil rights icons, resistance through history is how we got to where we are today, but as DeBardelaben tells us, the need for it has not ended with the passing of time.

"There's so many people that are hurting, and resistance is an avenue to bring healing and to bring change to those spaces, those communities, those hearts that need it. And I believe that's all of us," she said.

For Hamer, the word resistance represents the number of people needed to overcome inequities and work that needs to extend way past Black History Month.

Painting depicting woman at Black Lives Matter protest

For these Black artists, public art can be a form of protest

The message of racial equality is common throughout the pieces of public art coming out in cities all over the country.


"I think what's dangerous about Black History Month is that people can feel like they've checked off a box," she expressed. "At the end of the day, we're all humans, having our own experiences."

As we all embark on journeys this month, LaNesha and Aramis encourage us to seek out art, museums, books, or any medium that can open us up to different perspectives and learn from each other how we can make our country work better for us all.

"Just stay open. Examine your previous beliefs and question them too. It's like, 'where did this come from? Why do I feel this way?'" said Hamer. "When you peel those layers back, your beliefs can crumble."