Arts are not only for viewing, they can also impact and shape Black culture, traditions and ideals.
One person who makes an effort to address such themes is award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose.
“I think it’s important to take on roles that explore social issues, roles that explore things going on around us. [I do that] either because the issue is not being spoken about and needs to have light shed on it, or because it’s being spoken about a lot, but there aren’t a lot of representations about it,” Rose tells BET.com.
As the voice of the African-American princess in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, and a key character in the critically acclaimed For Colored Girls, Rose has attacked the topics of racial stereotypes and Black self-esteem through previous roles. One role near and dear to her heart, however, is mental health.
“In our community, we are very quiet about the subject of mental health and mental illness. In order to have a healing environment, we must continue to talk about it,” she says.
However, according to Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, in order for arts like Rose’s to be appreciated and used to create social change, more African-Americans need to be supportive.
“I think it’s important to nurture our artists so that they are able to grow their craft. Often young artists are discouraged because people wonder how that might become a career and how they’ll make it and it is hard,” she says.
You don’t have to be a chief executive to support Black artists, however.
If you don’t have the funds, “buy a book, go see a movie, go see people perform when they are in plays,” she says. “Support is not just philanthropy, it is also the physical, actual being there and witnessing and supporting the presentation of the work itself.”
If you are an artist looking to make a difference, follow your passion and pursue it through an art school or conservatory education, Golden says.
“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself. If it’s your passion and what you want to do, you go for it,” Rose suggests.