We spoke with two cultural activists who use arts and culture to educate and empower people to take action in their communities. This follows our conversation last week in which author Rivera Sun described how her novels tell the story of social transformation and educate her readers about nonviolent resistance. Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign teaches “Artful Activism” in his community and facilitates direct action training camps throughout the nation. He lectures in nonviolent strategy and tactics. Moyers says, “Our role, as change makers, social movement activists, organizers, and cultural workers is to change the social/political/economic variables and expand the scope of what is politically possible in tune with our principles and aspirations. Simultaneously, we must make politically toxic the world view that we oppose, lessening its appeal, reducing its claim in the territory of the politically possible.” His area of expertise is “Spectacle Actions.” Mic Crenshaw uses Hip Hop to expand the public dialogue about race and class issues in both the United States and Africa. Crenshaw says, “The music is an expression of my creativity but ultimately serves as a tool for a critique on dominant culture that limits and defines the kind of choices folks even imagine under capitalism.” He teaches social justice in Portland, OR, is Executive Director of Education Without Borders, is Political Director of Hip Hop Congress and organizes primarily around housing. He also founded Globalfam to help youth in Africa and organizes the Afrikan Hip Hop Caravan.
Relevant Websites and Videos:
Bill Moyer co-founded the Backbone Campaign in 2003 with friends from an artist affinity group. He has dual and intersecting paths as both an activist and artist. His involvement with social change work stretches back to the 80’s, when as a student he was deeply involved in the anti-nuclear movement and the anti-interventionist movement. After a few years of studying political science and American philosophy at Seattle University, Bill went to Big Mountain to assist Dineh elders refusing to relocate off their traditional land, attended the Institute for Social Ecology, and briefly lived on an organic vegetable farm in Vermont.
On returning to the Pacific NW to live on Vashon Island, activism was replaced with performance and study of music as a percussionist and sound designer. The G.W. Bush administration inspired him to apply lessons of the arts to social change. Backbone Campaign has been a vehicle for much growth and Bill has emerged as a leader in the theory and practice of “artful activism.” He designs and produces creative political actions and provides trainings in grand strategy and creative tactics around the country.
Bill (AT) BackboneCampaign.org
Mic Crenshaw was born on the Southside of Chicago, and raised both there and in Minneapolis, Michael Crenshaw is a world class MC and poet who has emerged on the national – and international stage. As a teen in the late 80’s, Mic was embroiled in the violent streets of Minneapolis, leading groups to physically confront white supremacist gangs that were enforcing their will at local parks and social scenes.
After beating back the neo-nazis, and violence remained, Crenshaw escaped all of it, moving to Portland, OR. Crenshaw says, “I wanted something new. [At the time] my ties with the streets were still pretty strong, and my social life involved drinking and fighting. I was ready for a change.” In Portland, he quickly became one of the most respected artists in the Northwest.
Beginning in ’94, Crenshaw was front man for the Portland beloved live Hip Hop band, Hungry Mob. In 2001, Crenshaw won The Portland Poetry Slam Championship and went on to finish as a national finalist. The Portland Mercury writes ‘Mic Crenshaw is a pretty mythic character… (with the Lifesavas) two of the very best hip-hop acts in PDX”.
In 2009, Mic released his debut solo CD, “Thinking Out Loud”, which spent 10 weeks in the top 10 on College Music Journal’s (CMJ) National Radio Hip Hop Charts, peaking at number 4.
Crenshaw’s 2nd solo release, ‘Under The Sun,’ was released in the winter of 2010. Single ‘Yeah’ peaked at #2 on CMJ’s Hip Hop Charts.
In Portland, Mic’s community efforts have expanded locally – and internationally. After attending a Human Rights conference in Rwanda, he started his own non-profit project called Globalfam. MC used Globalfam to help setup and maintain a computer center for disadvantaged youth in Burundi, Central Africa. Over 400 people have received free training and it is now expanding, generating revenue and creating jobs.
Crenshaw is also the Executive Director of the non-profit Education Without Borders (EWOB). EWOB helps education, music and art initiatives in Portland and beyond, as well serving as an umbrella for the local Books For Prisoners chapter and Globalfam itself. Globalfam has now blossomed into a Lifestyle Company that serves as a Music Label, Production, Promotion, Artist Management, and Education Company providing mainstream entertain that supports Social Justice Activism.
Crenshaw is currently recording music for his 3rd solo album, releasing the first single ‘Superheroes’ ft. Dead Prez. ‘Superheroes’ peaked at #2 on Rapattacklives.com singles chart.
Crenshaw is Political Director of the Hip Hop Congress and serves in the People’s Culture Bureau, Work Progress Administration of the Green Shadow Cabinet.