Art in the Age of Understanding by Joel Worford

Art shifts with culture while culture shifts with art—making it difficult for us to determine which one needs to change first when we decide something needs to change.

The popular idea that the artistic community holds the progressive mentalities while everybody else lags behind is largely a misconception.

Consider this: the lead single from Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic contains the clearly misogynistic line “bad bitches and their ugly ass friends,” among others, yet that didn’t stop the song from winning Record of the Year or from selling over one million units in less than 12 months. Some would argue that the success of Mars’ music, along with the success of a number of popular Hip-Hop, Country, RnB and Rock artists who play large stadiums and sell millions of records every year, regardless of the antiquated stance their music may take towards women, or the problematic ways they may represent race and/or sexuality comes down to the difference between popular music circles and underground music circles. This idea falls apart, however, when one considers that, even within the independent music scene, artists tend to separate themselves by genre—genres built around cultures whose make-up often reflects the prejudices and racial distinctions of the United States’ socio-economic situation.

As art shifts and shapes with culture, its communities grapple with the cultural climate of the time, just like any other group.

So how are movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo affecting artists? Surely the same musicians who perform at The Women’s March and speak out against bigotry and hate on social media are taking such ideas into account while they’re producing and presenting their art?

I believe the difference is small, yet substantial in the way that it manifests. I listen to Bruno Mars’ new album and enjoy the 90s throwback style quite a bit, yet as a working musician and singer-songwriter myself, I would never cover the song 24K Magic, because that one line about “bad bitches and their ugly ass friends” makes me uncomfortable. The reason it makes me uncomfortable is because I understand that it makes some of my friends who are women uncomfortable. This understanding is crucial, and represents the moment where the conversations brought to the forefront by Black Lives Matter and #MeToo begin to influence culture. As people begin to understand one another differently, culture will shift to accommodate, and so will art. When I listen to Bruno Mars’ new album, I skip that song, because the moments of misogyny take me out of the album’s groovaliciousness and remind me of the stories that my roommate tells about her negative experiences with men—some of whom surely mistreat women because they hold mentalities similar to the ones Mars glorifies in his song.

Skipping that song is my choice, just like it was Bruno Mars’ choice to write that line, record ’24K Magic,’ and include it on his album.

Both choices are valid—to regulate art and creation would be to regulate conversation, and such artistic stifling isn’t conducive to understanding. Our choices are just different, and reflect different ideas. I wouldn’t say that my choice is so much an act of protest as it is an act of necessity. Why should I listen to a song if it makes me uncomfortable? With that, you could ask—why should Bruno Mars change his song if he feels comfortable with it? Plenty of people, both men and women, love the song, and that line.

As society shifts in response to conversations on human rights and morality, the way we interact with each other will change, and the way we interact with art will change. Lyrics deemed bigoted or misogynistic will cause songs to fall out of the mainstream, and at that point, it will be the artist’s choice on whether to change with society, or to try and change it back.

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Joel Worford is a singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia. He currently studies English at Longwood University with a concentration in Creative Writing. Joel’s short story “The Naked Eye” appears in the 2017 edition of Good Works Review.

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Who We Are & Why We Care: WFP Member Profile: Courtney Rose

Hi! My name is Courtney Rose and I am an aspiring wedding planner and flash writer from Richmond, as well as a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

As an only child growing up in a single-parent household, I have always been curious about the concept of family—what it means for me, as well as for others, and for humanity in general (For example: For me, the idea of family is inherently female.). This led me to pursue a career in marriage where I have the opportunity to start two people off on the right foot through their wedding, most people’s idea of the traditional start of a “family.”

Family dynamics tend to be prominent in my writing. I have always been a very observant person, and, as a child, I noticed how different my friends’ home lives were from mine—sometimes better, sometimes much, much worse. I became hyper aware of divorce, abuse, hunger, and homelessness. My writing is an extension of that hyper-awareness: how family is defined, and how the idea of family survives (or doesn’t) in suffering.

I am involved in Writing for Peace because words have the power to open eyes and hearts. Too often we use words to divide us, but I believe that a far better purpose for our words is to connect us. Peaceful activism is so important in our society, perhaps now more than ever. Not everyone has money or time to donate to a cause, but everyone has a voice.

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Friday Hashtag #ReadersResist, from Writers Resist: Write Our Democracy

"Words are the tools writers use to create change, but without readers what we write cannot come alive. Readers must be at the heart of this movement. We invite you to resist normalizing "alternative" truth and narratives that contradict the bedrock principles of our country. Resolve to seek out and share truth and initiate inspired conversations. Together we can shift the narratives that define our future and help recover democracy.

On Fridays join us on social media with the hashtag #ReadersResist and share prose passages, articles, photos, poems, or any written material that demonstrates the solace, resolve, and resistance so essential to renewing our democracy.

Learn More About Writers Resist: Write Our Democracy Here

 

Who We Are & Why We Care: WFP Member Profile: Stuart Nicholson

Welcome! I am Stuart Nicholson, an actor and fiction writer in Richmond, as well as a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing For Peace.

Growing up in the woods of rural Virginia to a family of farmers, I have always had a strong respect for the land. Whether I was running around on an adventure in the trees or helping my uncle and grandfather plow or harvest the fields, nature was a constant in my early life. As I grew up and began seeing other issues in life, their effects intrigued, and sometimes worried, me. I remember being fascinated by experiences that I would never have and wanting to understand their impact.

I went to school to study acting because I wanted to be able to tell other people’s stories. I wanted to show hardship and struggle in people other than myself. Writing had always been an extension of that. It allows the versatility to tell my stories, as well as others’.

I wanted to be involved with Writing For Peace because I believe writing and the arts have a stronger pull than traditional advocacy. The arts are able to personalize issues in a way that pamphlet and signature activism can’t. Through Writing For Peace, we can show the effect all of these socio-political issues have on the people around us. Despite any differences, we are all members of this Community.

 

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Writing For Peace 2018 Young Writers Contest!

2018 Young Writers Contest Guidelines

Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13-19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures, and universal themes.

  • The deadline for entrance is April 1st, 2018.
  • There is no fee for participation.
  • Writers, ages 13-19, may submit in one of three categories – poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. Ages are counted from the entry date, and entrants are required to show proof of age (those images are never shared publicly).
  • Winners and published finalists will be asked to submit an author’s photograph and biography. We encourage you to explore the winners’ pages on the site to see the types of information and pictures authors share.
  • The contest is open internationally, but all submissions must be written in English and submitted with the completed form. Both American and British English are accepted.
  • All participants will receive a certificate of participation.

More Details and Submissions HERE

 

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Welcome to the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace! How We Got Here....

So happy you're here with us at the start of this new venture.

I've had the privilege of working with the national organization Writing for Peace for the last four years, an organization dedicated to employing the skills, talents, and energy of writers toward the goals of promoting empathy and peaceful activism. The dream of one woman, the amazing Carmel Mawle, Writing for Peace was founded in Colorado, with its initial goal of particularly reaching out to young writers, through an annual Young Writers' Contest. This dedication to both writing, my own field, and to young people, impressed me so much, and so I was thrilled when asked by Carmel to join the team of advisers associated with Writing for Peace. Writing for Peace continues to grow, under the direction of our new President, Andrea Slack Doray, and with an excellent board, committed to the mission Carmel first set out years ago.

I introduced the organization to my own students, young poets, essayists, and fiction writers, in the classes I teach at Longwood University, and they loved it, loved how the goals aligned with their own desire and passion for activism and social justice, loved that it embodied what they saw as the vital role of artists in creating real change in the world.

But Colorado's a long way from the rolling rural farmland of central Virginia, so one day I sent a message, a question, in a thread online, to a list of my most civically active current students and alums, asking, “How do we bring Writing for Peace here to Virginia? What would a regional chapter of WFP look like to you?”

The thread exploded, with the energy and enthusiasm and wisdom young people can bring, and the idea of WFP Regional Chapters began grow, including community activists in our area, as we developed the proposal, sought board approval, and began the steps to making this chapter of Writing for Peace a reality here in Central Virginia.

This past Sunday, using the magic of online video conferencing, we gathered, a small group of like-minded collaborators, for the first meeting of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace.

Writers of all backgrounds and ages, supporters of the arts, community activists, anyone who wants to join us, we, as a chapter, want to do what we can, use the skills we have, to make our own communities and region better, stronger, more peaceful places for all who live here, through projects we develop as a chapter, and through the support we can as a group extend to other activists and organizations already doing good work on the ground where we are.

Beyond our desire to better our own communities, we hope that this inaugural chapter will inspire others to do the same, to come together to create Writing for Peace chapters in communities across the country, even across our beautiful planet.

We'll be posting here regularly, writing, projects, events, articles of interest, all with the hope of promoting discussions and activism toward peace. We hope you'll join us, as we work together toward a more peaceful, empathetic, loving, and just world--for everyone.

 

Mary Carroll-Hackett

Member, Central Virginia Chapter

MidAtlantic Regional Liaison

Writing for Peace

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