Don’t Shoot Portland’s meeting focused on art as a tool for change

Revolución Coffee House hosted Don’t Shoot Portland’s monthly “Second Saturday Social Justice” meeting led by Teressa Raiford on May 13. The small cafe on SW 6th created an intimate space for the group to discuss “#Artists4BlackLives” and its plans for the Upstanders Festival on May 27 at the Portland Art Museum.

“I’m so glad I could finally meet you [Raiford],” said one attendee, a recent transplant from Oakland, California who said they had been advocates and sympathizers for feminism and the Black Panthers and look forward to being more involved in their new home town.

Two other attendees said they have been involved in activism for the last 40 years in Portland and both of them had a lot of respect for Raiford’s direction. One of them said they were at the meeting because all their heroes are dead and they appreciate the work and voice of Raiford.

“All my heroes are 14,” Raiford replied.

Don’t Shoot Portland’s artistic vision

“This is a call out to artists, photographers, writers and performers,” reads DSP’s event page. “[Help] us create an epic event here in Portland documenting our work in the movement for Black Lives!

Raiford is hoping that these artisans and anyone who has been protesting with Black Lives Matter or doing social justice work with DSP will contribute art or photographs of their experiences. DSP will take those images and build an art exhibit partially geared toward displaying an enormous retrospective of events, people, and the struggle involved in social justice work.

Additionally, Raiford hopes to have an interactive exhibit of color-coded images showing where attendees fall on a sliding scale of their involvement in social justice work and in supporting BLM and DSP. Attendees will be invited to pin an image on a sliding scale that seems to range from something like ‘working for social justice and marching at the front lines whenever possible’ to not involved at all.

Social media activists are among those activists that have turned out in droves over the last two years as the Democrats and Republicans battled it out over the last election. Social media activism has been nicknamed “slacktivism” thanks to controversies and conversations hosted in a variety of places including the Washington Post.

Another exhibit is set to feature images and articles of people under arrest and in unpleasant situations primarily at the hands of police to highlight the more difficult parts of their movement. The exhibit will also feature a section dedicated to images and articles of protesters taking over the streets tentatively titled “Our Streets.”

Upstanders Festival rejected “Fuck The Police” art

At a recent event, DSP had screen printed many posters with phrases including, “Stop Mass Incarceration,” “End Police Brutality,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Stop Killing Us,” and “Say Her Name.” Festival organizers said they didn’t want to see was screen-printed repetitions that read “Fuck The Police.”

“When I say ‘fuck the police,’ I’m saying fuck those systems that restrict people from having freedom in their humanity,” Raiford said.

Raiford is hoping to expand social justice, BLM, and DSP conversations through discussions and panels at the festival. One panel may also involve internal conflicts that social justice movements can face within themselves and with other movements.

One attendee noted a time they were arrested and had their mug shot placed next to someone else’s who holds conflicting views with their own, and that they were upset by being placed next to a person with whom they disagreed because it could be misconstrued that the pictures represented two people on the same team.

Big picture goals for Upstanders

If we can use art to spark these dialogues, then we succeeded,” Raiford asserted.

Upstanders Festival is happening alongside Portland Art Museum’s “Constructing Identity: Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art” exhibit which aims to highlight work from artists of color, as their work is often underrepresented in museums and galleries.

“Next Saturday, we feed the houseless and do work in the garden at Hughes Memorial Church for our third Saturday community service and feed in,” said Star Stauffer.

Raiford noted that whether or not new people come and support, they’ll have to do the work with or without people.

“We need committed supporters, not seasonal,” Raiford said. “Don’t even tell me you’ll be there, just be there.”

DSP also planned to “carry the names” of Terrell Johnson and Quanice Hayes on Malcolm X’s birthday, May 19.