by Managing Editor Raynell Joseph
Creatives have historically used their chosen medium in powerful ways. Often illuminating the margins and highlighting the need for societal changes. It was creatives that shaped the Black Power Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Many choose to be intentional with their craft and “reflect the times,” in the words of the great Nina Simone. These individuals look at the world through different lenses, they color outside of the lines and break the rules. While creatives are artists and may be painting pictures or writing songs, it is their ability to do so with an outcome in mind that separates them from the rest. I had the great honor of speaking with our dear friend and local creative Ebony Easiley on how she is using her platform to drive change in Tulsa.
Joseph: Many of us have seen you perform around Tulsa, but there is a whole brand behind what you do. Can you expound on what your intentions are with the brand?
Easiley: A.R.T. stands for Ambition Reveals Truth. It’s a brand based on my personal experience and my passion for the arts. Whatever people are passionate about really reveals and shows who they are at their core. You can meet the person and truly understand more about them and learn what drives them and what they are passionate about. People are at their best when they are living out their passions. This brand is a movement for people who love the arts and my desire to see people living in freedom.
Joseph: Can you speak to the personal experiences that have shaped your brand?
Easiley: I came up during the time where they were stripping the arts out of the schools. It wasn’t until college that I started getting exposed to art talks, fairs and shows. As a student at TU, I felt like I had to overcome various obstacles compared to my white peers who had been exposed to art already while also trying to improve my discipline. Often being the only African-American woman in those white spaces, I felt like I had double the obstacles. I couldn’t help but wonder what my experience would have been if I had been exposed to art early on.
Joseph: How are you intentional about providing access and representation for the next generation?
Easiley: My brand is the product of my LLC, Artograph Collective, whose mission is to dismantle and disrupt historical barriers placed on disadvantaged communities of color through the arts. My first project was back in January 2019 where I was able to partner with a local artist and put on a benefit concert to raise funds to go towards art programming and supplies to inspire the next generation of artists. We were able to donate money to African-American girls at the Tulsa Girls’ Art School. My second project was my commercial, which aired in May 2019. The purpose was to debunk the negative stereotypes placed on African-American women. It’s a shame that the negative stereotypes placed on Black women often overshadow the positive. How have we become the bottom of society when we have made such a large contribution to society? I was able to bring some pillars of the community together for the shoot. They were largely women who have impacted the city that I live in.
Joseph: I know the pandemic has affected many of these projects and initiatives. How have you identified ways to still carry out your mission and vision?
Easiley: Yes! I’m excited to be working on two initiatives. As I spoke to my personal experience of growing up during a time where the art programs were the first thing being cut from schools, that is still the case today. Studies have shown that art builds confidence, contributes to students mastering core subjects and decreases dropout rates. My initiative, Art 4orms, is intended to be a free online space to introduce elementary students to some of the basics and fundamentals of visual art. We also seek to introduce students to Black artists in each session of Art 4orms. I’m also launching a podcast called My Life Mattered Before It Was Trending or a Hashtag to address the systematic racial issues that Black and brown people face. We will have a therapist on each episode to provide solutions and tangible applications for listeners who are working in corporate and non-profit spaces dealing with racism. It’s educational, relatable and healing-based.
Joseph: How can we stay updated on your initiatives?
Easiley: You can check out my music site (www.ebonyasemusic.com). I’ll be updating it pretty soon to include my various projects and initiatives. Also, follow the Art 4orms Instagram page (@art4ormkids) for updates on the online program for students.
Photo credit: Keonte Carter