My latest for the WBEZ tumblr, on the power of the internet, creative classes, and disenfranchised populations.
“I Made This”
by Britt Julious
We exist. We are in your offices, your clubs, and your performance spaces. We are sitting in your coffee shops as well, working on our passion projects, or perhaps just discussing them with others around us. We are eager and confused and working toward a greater something in order to “create” and “speak.” I’m talking about the creative class and the black creative class specifically.
In an article for The Liberator Magazine, Robert Bland detailed the rise and liberation of the black creative class, exploring their growth from their flourishing viewing and consumption habits in youth to their positions currently as adults eager to make something of their own. In the article, Bland described this class, writing:
While not quite a fully cohesive group, the black creative class does share some similar traits. Because most of the group has been to college, and a considerable amount grew up in the suburbs, the black creative class fits somewhat neatly into the American definition of middle-class. After school, they generally migrate to a large city where a critical mass of other black creatives can be found. They are weary of essentializing conceptions of race but also discount the idea that we are living in a “post-racial” America. While most do not enter the arts or the entertainment industry directly, popular culture is the lingua franca of the black creative class.
I read the article and read it again because much of what he outlined fit within my own background and pursuits. More than anything, the article touched on a slow-burning spark that inhabits this population of new creatives. The exposure to entertainment and other media for black populations throughout the childhoods of these creatives laid the foundation for their current desires to make something of their own. The abundance and then the stark lack of such entertainment became groundwork for their new pursuits as adults with the means to do rather than just hope for something better to come along.
What does it mean to create in 2013? Well for one, the methods of creation have expanded immensely. Tools typically relegated to smaller populations are now available for the curious masses. For example, I am not a perfect writer, but social media platforms such as Tumblr allow me to explore different styles in order to find what best works for my skills.
More importantly, it makes the actual creation easier than ever. The methods are open. The rules are seemingly non-existent. What is setting the individual back most is the desire to do what they most want to do. As a writer writing about issues such as race and feminism, the internet as a whole has provided the means to explore these subjects in fits and bursts of creative energy. It allows the creator to experiment.
But also, it allows the potential creator to explore (and explore what this means for their personal identity as a creator) in ways they didn’t think they could have in earlier years. In an essay exploring the pleasures and greatness of the internet, writer Julianne Escobedo Shepherd wrote:
At its best, the internet expands and multiplies our ideas of who we can be, and that makes it extra appealing to us women and girls. So much of being female involves being told what and who we are supposed to be, or even allowed to be; transcending those limits takes a lot of work. But not on the internet.
I agree with this deeply, but also think it can be applied on a broader scale. Technology does not provide the inevitable solution, but it does provide the tools to challenge oneself. For the black creative, this can also mean a chance to tell one’s story. In recent months, I’ve seen a wide variety of projects ranging from podcasts to electronic “orchestral” arrangements to web series to short films from black creators. They are all around my age and they are all eager to do what they maybe thought was not possible for “them” at a younger age.
In many ways, the black creative class provides, if not the answer, then an answer to the image of “the black population” in media. It is no longer just feasible to wait for change to come. Rather, creatives of all sorts (minorities, women, the young, the outsiders, the eccentrics) can and should take whatever means are available to them to explore their own interests and build audiences. We should certainly want more from the mainstream, from those in charge, but we should also take action for ourselves, tell our own stories, regardless of how many people are listening.