Content Creators & The New Harlem Renaissance
You hear a lot about our millennials who can’t seem to take their eyes off of the screen. We are increasingly fixated on our TVs, computers and the most embedded device of them all, our cell phones. Artists such as Pawel Kuczynski, depicts this behavior in an eerie darkness. His art affirms the same sentiments that older generations have expressed for years, being glued to your screen for the entire day is unhealthy, dangerous and unproductive. “You’re wasting away, son. Go out and play!” According to the Pew Research Center data of 2015, 90% of adults aged 18-29 use social media platforms; 77% of those aged 30-49 have social media accounts; 51% of those aged 50-64; and 35% of the eldest group 65+ use social media accounts. What is our youth telling us when you consider they spend such a large amount of their daily time on social media? Ask around, our youth have a choice in this. They are not entrapped in the digital life, they are exploring its vastness. Young adults have chosen to spend their time on social media because it is their leisure, quality time and their workplace. Heavy digital users are letting us know that this environment, the digital world, is more times than not preferable to them. But is all this extra time online rotting our brains? We’ve heard the same arguments with TV, radio even and now the cell phone.
As I thought about social media, I began to wonder if this content could be considered art. It is no easy feat to go viral. It takes skill when done purposely and is more often pure luck, right time and right place. But there are some people who are skilled professionals. Admittedly, I may have been naïve but I didn’t know the sheer complexities of the social media industry and the different job titles it encompasses. From Idea Inventor, Podcaster, Tweeter, Brand Champion, Conversation Manager and more. The employment growth rate within the tech industry is partially made up of social media careers. This social media employment growth is part of a nationwide trend of businesses increasing their social media marketing budgets to accommodate the increasing digital trends. You have to start to think, that all of those hours using, creating and watching creative content may pay off for our melanin youth in the future. Especially, if you anticipate the rise of job and career opportunities within the social media industry.
In preparation for SUSU I geared up some social media accounts as I was previously on a strict social media diet, Facebook only “I can’t get lost spending all this time doing nothing on other platforms like IG, Twitter and SnapChat.” To keep it 100, I had IG but had about 4 posts before SUSU Movement. Needless to say I was more than pleased with all the black entertainment and creative content on IG and Twitter. Skilled artists, directors and Tweeters showcase all sorts of content in an effort to catch our eyes. Like it, laugh at it and hopefully share it are the goals. In this category our young black youth are bringing back the next art renaissance movement in the form of digital content. Check out a couple of names on this list of top 100 Most Influential Black People on Digital/Social Media. These content creators, entrepreneurs and artists have garnished enough followers to make a profitable branded business. Who can forget, “Why you always lying?”. As silly as this viral video was, it still was conceived of by a creative mind. This is the thing, our world is shifting. We are slowly being sucked into the digital world en masse. This is not some sci-fi theory here, according to one study, we spend roughly 16 minutes of every hour on social media. That’s nearly 3.5 hours a day. So it makes sense that we need new creators of art to occupy our increasingly longer digital gaze. When you think of the present influence that black culture has on art, music and all things entertainment one can assume, perhaps correctly, that social media content and this new form of “art” will eventually be dominated by our young content creators. These young creators are leading the new digital Harlem Renaissance like Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker were pioneers during the original Harlem Renaissance. Like it or not, this is art. Behind every TV and play is a script and screenplay writer. Through IG, Snapchat and YouTube our youth are making very short plays for the internet audience. Hip Hop as an art form is a modern day poetry we’ve been blessed with. There’s someone using social media right now trying to network their way to the notorious number one spot. Our youth can be the next Jean-Michel Basquiat because the platform of what’s considered art is changing right before our very eyes. Digital artists paint using computers so much that many schools have increased their budgets to accommodate the teachings of this growing interest and new artistic platform. The City College of New York has even dedicated an entire Master’s program called Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice to the field of digital art and creation. Business in this arena is booming and constantly evolving!
My hope is that we come together and support this art instead of resists the movement by many young black content creators. I still struggle with it. But however silly, your likes and shares, comments and DMs are all ways to support and show love . If we frown at our young content creators we potentially devalue their drive to create art that may change the world. Check out Black Artists Connected on Facebook. Artists such as Artofmere, like so many artists during the Harlem Renaissance, are creating content that inspires one to reflect on racial tension, inspires black empowerment and calls us to action through depictions of injustice. As artists continue to use their medium to challenge oppressive systems of inequality, art may lead the fight against social injustice and black empowerment. Look at how Kendrick Lamar’s “We Goin Be Alright” rang through the air at BLM marches across the nation. Our youth are sharpening their skills and honing their artistry crafts. Our future writers are blogging, producers are Snapchatting, film makers are YouTubing, musicians Soundclouding and entrepreneurs Instagramming everywhere you look. Black culture has saturated the digital market. What we need is to capitalize on it before we are once again commoditized by an entity that doesn’t have our black interests in line with theirs. We cannot and will not let them do what they did to our hip hop industry with sideways deals, toxic artistic direction and ghost writing galore. We cannot let our art be controlled again. Our social media creations must resemble our truer taste, not just the glorified sex and violence. Our artists will not be enslaved in raw deals and our labor must forever be our own. We need to seize this moment to be leaders in the new digital art renaissance. Support and sharing is the first step. From there we build channels and networks and distribution sources for our own content. WorldStar, love it or hate it, is an example of a black owned social media site. Oprah with OWN has her ‘own’ television network. With all of us supporting the creative efforts of our youth, we may cement a new genre of digital art excellence that will be looked back at like that of the Harlem Renaissance of early 20th century.
“…while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”-Jesse Williams
For a brief biography of some of the artists from the original Harlem Renaissance click HERE.
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