“[Respond] organically and on your own time. Artists have a duty to reflect our times, not necessarily to report them. Don't succumb to pressure to prove you're "woke". Respond to trauma/ tragedy on your own time .#blkcreatives “
This was my response to one of the questions during Monday’s #blkcreatives Twitter chat on mental health and creativity. The question was about trauma, and how creatives should incorporate responses to trauma and tragedy in their work. 2016 has been an emotional shitstorm, to say the least, and with a new tragedy even other day, on social media we have reached peak “Where’s Ja?” Syndrome.
I call it “Where’s Ja?” Syndrome because of the Dave Chappelle stand-up routine it comes from. Dave was recalling the time right after 9/11 when shows such as TRL (Total Request Live) on MTV contacted celebrities to get their thoughts on the tragedy. Dave joked that after a tragedy such as 9/11, the last thing he needed was Ja Rule to help him make sense of it.
Fast forward to 2016. We have more ways to respond and be heard outside of our creative practice, and artists and celebrities run the risk of being criticized for not responding, not responding quickly enough, not responding the "right" way, or responding and being called disingenuous.
I have felt pressure to respond as a writer and an active social media user, but this week’s #blkcreatives Twitter chat reminded me of why I do take a moment to pause before I respond. I’m a writer, not a reporter. My obligation is to my gifts of expression and those that can be helped or healed by them. I do not feel that artists and creatives are obligated to rush to a response, or that a response could ever be too late.
There are many ways to be an agent of change. Use the one that honors who you are, and who you want to be.