Last night, rapper/artist/Baltimore ambassador, Abdu Ali gave a lecture on “Visibility” at bb gallery. Always a truth teller Abdu spared no one’s feelings when talking about the state of Art in Baltimore City and the ways we all can work together to change it. Nestled in the imitate space of the cozy gallery, Abdu sat cross legged and kick knowledge like a wise Aunty. He gave a powerpoint assisted lecture, here are a few bullet points that stuck with me.
- Form a collective
There is power in numbers. The new rise of the Baltimore art scene can be traced back to groups or collectives. Abdu made sure to point the difference between a collective and a “cool kids club”. A collective only occurs when individuals bring their talents to the table and make something new. He wasn’t saying form a clique. This isn’t high school. But a collective can reach across demographics and ensure that not only are many voices heard, but work is decimated equally. We can’t all do everything, but we can all do our part.
- Don’t wait on white people
This is pretty straight forward, but it bares repeating. They won’t give you grant money to host your exhibit? Raise funds through the internet and host it yourself. They won’t hire you? Start your own. We know they have unjustly acquired most of the resources, but that’s where creativity comes into play. We have to be like Malcolm and pursue our artistic endeavors “by any means necessary”
- Invest in ALL AGES
Baltimore City eats it young. From the public school system to the lack of recreation centers this is not a youth friendly city. That being said, if you dare open up your scene to people 21 and under, you basically have a captive audience. Plus, the children are the future.
- Be Internet Friendly
Crowd funding is real. If the one’s closest to you don’t believe in your movement. you can be sure that there is someone out there who will. They just need to know it exists. Enter “the Internet”.
- Use the Space you already have to grow a higher demand
Although it seems like there are more abandoned houses than people in Baltimore City, it’s really hard for people to set up galleries or spaces. There are about a handful of spaces willing to be adventurous and host events for certain demographics, specifically young, POC. That sucks, but as Abdu suggested, if using your living space doesn’t work, continue to work with the spaces that do accept you, keep packing those shows and maybe your success with make other venues take notice.
After his presentation, he opened up for questions. Although everyone was a little shy at first, it grew to be a safe space where people got real about what seems to be the root of all problems in this city. Racism. It’s nice to know that Baltimore is still one of the best places in the world to learn and talk about this very real part of everyone’s reality. I asked a question for all the Baltimore natives who leave the city and ultimately find our way back home, how can we better represent for our city when we are away and preserve our culture when we return? Abdu responded that we must stop being ashamed of our city. He encouraged travel but he also said, “don’t forget to bring what you learn back home”. In general it was a really interesting lecture, one that empowered me to continue to express myself and seek to be visible.
Lastly, Abdu had this to say in regards to people who maybe too timid to implement these changes,
“gotta take shit seriously or else everything is gonna be akiki 4 evah.”