Attending Usher’s TIDAL Art for Amnesty Event by UNL NY Youth Leader, Apple Badal

Usher’s New Look New York Leadership Academy students were recently invited to attend Usher’s event with TIDAL and Art for Amnesty, which featured,‘Chains’, his powerful new music video that addresses social injustice and police brutality. Read 11th grader Apple’s blog about it below!

By Apple Badal, 11th Grade (Pictured above, Third from the left)

Recently, I went to an art gallery showcase hosted by our mentor Mr. Usher Raymond, TIDAL and Art for Amnesty. It was about addressing social injustice through art. It was about police brutality toward the black communities and how so many black cases weren’t gaining justice so often that it became a global discussion. A perfect example like the Eric Garner case inspired a piece of art that was literally made of his last words. It was so heartbreaking and such an eye opener to see how much of a toll was being taken on black communities. From the entrance looking across the room I noticed a few colored bars like what they showed on old time TV’s and it looked so familiar. I bee-lined it to the wall and low and behold there was her name, Sophia Dawson, one of my sisters from church. She’s an amazing artist creating pieces on the beauty of the strength of the oppressed and the pained black community and the struggles that were endured. Her art was symbolic of how people of color specifically were so dominated and led to believe they were less than equal. I found her and asked her to explain her work. She explained to me her inspiration and how each thing in her art stood for something. It got me thinking, “Okay, these artists aren’t just creating for fun. There’s a meaning behind it.”

I strolled through the gallery and saw pieces of how the government plays a part in oppression and there was a particular piece I will never forget. It was a mirror, with a colored frosting of two very young black boys with a mugshot number around their necks hanging on their bare, shirtless chests and a white officer kneeling to match their height and looking away from them. The boys looked slightly confused and the officer looked like a mix of disgust and partial self-shame. It was like he knew it was wrong to label these young boys, but he didn’t really know of another choice. The colored frost of these three people on this mirror had the look of a photograph taken back in a time when black people were still fighting for equal rights. It was like when peaceful protests were met with firehoses and dogs being set onto the people protesting for these rights. The mirror made it seem like the viewer themself was a part of the scene. It was there where one of my fellow Usher’s New Look Leaders and I met a wonderful professor by the name of Aida Hurtado of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Naturally we asked what college was like and what should we aim for and what advice could she give us to prepare and she simply said “Read.” We were to read whatever, whenever, and how ever we could.

Literature would get us places and honestly, I had considered and discovered that before. That reading was not only fun, it was fundamental. She then introduced us to her husband, who gave us a few tips for college as well, saying, “It’s okay to be indecisive. Do what you love and if you don’t love it, change it.” After strolling around and chatting with different people, the piece of art Mr. Usher Raymond put together was exhibited. A song called ‘Chains, and a powerful music video about the pain behind being “chained up” due to race. How easy it was for black men to be jailed and killed and scared into a place of lesser value by such officers. Uneducated officers, ill-taught. Officers today should know that not all black people are supposed criminals. All criminals are criminals regardless of race. Usher sings in this song about inequality which leads to social injustice. The greatest part about this piece of art was the rap portion. A music style mostly known for its negative background was being used to plead the injustice of police brutality on the streets toward the black community. How men of color were being shot down due to prejudice and how these people were left to fend for themselves when these officers were not held responsible. All the shout-outs and remembrance of those fallen and passed and their names being branded with injustice were just a few ways the conversation was started. We were to educate others about social injustice and our generation was the next generation to stand and fight against it.

All in all, it was beautiful, to meet new faces and new people. Different art mediums portrayed different emotions. It all blended so well and really brought light to a topic I wouldn’t really have followed. It’s clear that police brutality causes a social injustice and despair on the black community, and I could have only learned that through the emotion the artwork showed. I was able to learn more. I was able to understand the severity and personal emotion behind the pain of social injustice.