BLM = BAM
Black Lives Matter = Black Artists Matter = Black Art Matters
Almost one year ago, George Floyd, was murdered by a White police officer in Minneapolis. In the wake of his death, BLM uprisings erupted all over the USA and they eventually spread to other parts of the world, including Canada.
Because of the consistent and continuous power of the BLM protests, it seemed that both suddenly - yet also belatedly - new understandings of anti-Black racism had entered the body politic in reinvigorated and sustained ways.
This was certainly evident in the Canadian art system. Many mainstream arts organizations have been falling over themselves to put out well-meaning statements against racism. Primary Colours/Couleurs primaires (PC/Cp), after much deliberation, decided not to join in this display of performative allyship; we decided to wait.
We spoke with our Black friends and colleagues, many of whom are artists. We asked what should we do? They answered in three ways:
1. work with Black artists as a matter of course
2. give more attention to Black voices, centre them, create spaces for them to speak
3. open conversations and encourage actions to deal with anti-Black racism within Indigenous arts communities and arts communities of colour
We felt that in the everyday functioning of PC/Cp, we were already doing the first proposal, but that we certainly could be more deliberate in responding to the second suggestion. We chose the amazing Lorrie Jean-Louis, author of La Femme Cent Couleurs for the PC/Cp 2020 Emerging Artist Award. Born in Montréal of Haitian ancestry, she is one of many notable, emerging Black artists writing in French.
This current initiative, BLM = BAM, is also a way of creating space and centering the voices of Black artists who work on the territory now known as Canada.
PC/Cp recognizes that the third piece of advice given to us by Black colleagues is essential. It is also complicated - by history, by skins, by the ever-present dangers of anti-Black racism. We are trying to develop methodologies for these conversations that go beyond simply calling out Indigenous artists or artists of colour for their anti-Black racism. We are striving for fresh ways of working that encourage generative discomfort, that help all of us in IBPoC arts communities to learn from each other and move forward together against White supremacy.
PC/Cp will address this complex issue, but we want to do more listening before acting.
Chris Creighton-Kelly and France Trépanier
Experience the project here.