On Thursday, February 22, award-winning journalist and author Jeff Chang visited Rhodes College and gave a lecture on the importance of arts in the era of Resegregation. Focusing on his latest book, entitled We Gon’ Be Alright, Chang articulated the relationship between music and moments of cultural shifts. A particularly poignant aspect of the lecture is occured when Chang asserted that today America faces the biggest concern for race relations since 1992, the year the LA race riots greatly impacted the nation. Prior to 1992, another period in U.S history in which concern over race relations spiked was 1965: the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the year of the Selma to Montgomery March and the Voting Rights Act. Chang expressed how the United States is essentially stuck in a crisis cycle which causes a repetition of similar events. As a reaction to traumatic events, culture acts as an important battleground in our struggle for freedom. However, culture wars have ravaged America. Chang articulated how expansion of inequality and Resegregation are the prod and product of culture wars. Yet with all the hopelessness that seems to plague the nation today, Chang offered the arts as an avenue for change. Arts and culture have brought about revolutions throughout history, and now more than ever, art as a means of protest is a palpable force in America. In the spirit of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Chang expressed the relevance of Dr. King’s legacy today. Chang explained how empathy is the first step towards equity, echoing Dr. King’s belief in nonviolent resistance and asserting that all individuals are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Chang concluded his lecture by using Beyoncé’s Lemonade as an example of empathy as well as reconciliation. Through Lemonade, Beyoncé experiences a journey through heartbreak, anger and eventually radical softness through self love. Chang cited love and self love as the core of revolutionary efforts through the arts.
Text by Savannah Seagal