An Important Tool in the Black Lives Matter Movement: A UNO artist’s perspective

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Hannah Michelle Bussa
CONTRIBUTOR

Artwork done on a window at the Shear Diamonds Salon in South Omaha to bring awareness to racial injustice. It reads: “Black is… Love, Hope, Power, Art, Change, Smart, Focused, Justice, Strong, Important, Unique, Beautiful, Passionate, Success, Difference.” Photo courtesy of Jada Messick.

Jada Messick is a graduating senior at UNO studying Fine Arts with a concentration in Painting and Graphic Design. As a Black woman artist, her art is a form of activism.

“I feel like my art doesn’t necessarily focus on specific events, but my art does tie into my personal self, from my mental health and what I visually enjoy looking at,” Messick said. “Mental health is a big factor in everyday lives, especially in the Black community. From past traumas, racial injustice, police brutality, lack of resources, gaslighting, propaganda, colorism, capitalism and the list goes on – but it all ties into racism. Black artists have a great way of putting their stories into their art.”

Messick has been interested in art since she was young, but during her time in college, she has figured out her style and her way of putting her stories into her art.

“You can feel a lot when looking at art,” she said. “I think it’s very important to know and look at Black artists because a lot of the issues we are dealing with today is in our artwork. Not everyone’s, but most. The issues we are dealing with today are not new. At all.”

Art is an important tool that can be used as activism to create awareness in movements like Black Lives Matter. That awareness can help educate people and help them understand one another. Messick says this is important in helping shape our future.

“As a Black woman artist, I was able to work with Nasty Artist Collective to create window mural art to spread awareness of racial injustice that we still suffer from today,” she said. “There is so much more to be done and changed in our society.”

Messick pointed to the importance of even seemingly small forms of activism.

“It’s important to do as much as you can because the smallest acts could benefit us in bigger ways that some may not even notice,” she said.

Black artists’ work tells and makes space for Black stories.

“Black artists tell the pain and struggles of Black history through the design of their work,” Messick said. “Just looking at some artists’ pieces, you get a feeling of pain and suffering, but you also get to enjoy the beauty of the culture.”

Messick mentioned some of her favorite artists: Kara Walker, Kehinde Whiley, Mikalene Thomas, Mark Bradford, Barkley L. Hendricks and Kerry James Marshall. They are her favorites because they create pieces out of real-life experiences that people can learn from.

“It saddens me that over the past year, a pandemic and videos of police brutality are what caused many people to become aware that racial issues are still happening today, but I just hope people continue to fight,” she said. “Today, and always, there are a lot of people in denial of issues of race and class that forget it is actually going on. Just because things don’t happen to you or in front of you, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

Messick’s art is creating a space for Black stories and experiences.

Jada Messick’s art is on Instagram @artsycarmel.

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