Barry McNamara  |   Published July 08, 2020

Using Art to Protest Racism and Inequality

For Gabrielle Nance ’21, creating art was a chance to raise awareness about racism and inequality. Her work ‘It’s A Lot’ is part of ‘Truths,’ an online exhibition at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College student Gabrielle Nance ’21 is using her art to make a statement that “serious change” is the only solution to the racial inequality she’s witnessed in America from an early age.

SAYING IT THROUGH ART: ?It's A Lot,? Gabrielle Nance ?21, is part of ?Truths,? an online exhi... SAYING IT THROUGH ART: “It's A Lot,” Gabrielle Nance ’21, is part of “Truths,” an online exhibition at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn, Ill.Nance’s drawing “It’s A Lot” is part of an online exhibition at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn, Ill. Titled “Truths,” the exhibit features pieces submitted by community members in reaction to the killing of George Floyd and other issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“As a Black person, I have always been aware of racial inequality in this country,” said Nance, a Chicago resident who is majoring in art. “I have had ‘the talk’ with my parents, and I have to constantly control my actions and emotions lest I become a target for someone else.”

Her drawing and her artist’s statement that accompanies it (available here) are Nance’s way of saying that “halfhearted” attempts to address racism and inequality are not acceptable.

“I see officers gas, shoot and hurt peaceful protestors but protect those that believe in Nazi, KKK and alt-right propaganda,” she said. “And when people see all of this and demand that the current policing system be abolished, we only get halfhearted reforms and nothing that addresses the root problem of racist laws, lawmakers and policing … nothing that dismantles and changes the system from the inside out to make sure that Black folks aren’t needlessly preyed upon.”

For Nance and many others, it’s hard to be upbeat during a time when it seems any ground that had been gained since the Civil Rights movement more than half a century ago has been lost.

“I wish I could be positive, but I have seen enough to know that positivity alone cannot create lasting change,” she said. “(In) our country’s history … when those in power get sick of hearing about something, they do just enough to soothe their conscience, then shut down and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. We saw it with the Civil Rights movement, where we were supposedly made equal as people, but not enough was done to make sure that those rules were enforced without bias and nothing was done to make sure Black folks had the same equity in resources and economic power as white folks.”

In her statement, Nance acknowledges a few reasons for optimism.

“I’m glad that there are people using their privilege to fight for others with less,” she said. “I’m glad people are realizing that the systems in our country only support a select few people and actively condemn Black folks. I’m glad we can at least scream loud enough to not be ignored and force change.”

Nance is doing some of that screaming through art, and her screams come from profound pain.

“I hope that we can fight hard enough to force some serious changes and keep them,” she said. “But right now, everything hurts and things aren’t too hopeful.

“In short, it’s a lot.”

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