On Apr. 11, 2018, Manhattanville College got the opportunity to take part in a campaign that has increasingly spread across the United States called Ella Baker Day. Ella Baker was born in Norfok, Virginia on Dec. 13, 1903. She is known for being one of the nations most powerful activists during her time and is still highly recognized today for her contributions. Baker strived to create better opportunities and living conditions for the less fortunate.
Growing up, Bakers parents were slaves, and she was encouraged to fight against what was wrong in society. Her family encouraged her to get an education and she eventually graduated from Shaw University in North Carolina as valedictorian.
Manhattanville College, like many other colleges such as Costal Carolina and Loyola University, took part in bringing the recognition of Ella Baker Day with this year’s theme, The Art of Resistance.
The two guest speakers, Marissa A. Gutierrez-Vicario, and Tanisha Christie have dedicated their lives to bring recognition to this campaign and create the change Ella Baker would have wanted in today’s society.
The first guest speaker, Gutierrez-Vicario, had shared some of her own life’s work with our community through the intersection of social justice and the arts. She founded and currently operates a non-profit organization called Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE).
The goal of this organization is to amplify the voices of young people for human rights change through visual arts. Gutierrez-Vicario, just like Ella Baker, recognized the mistreatment and judgment individuals face and strives to bring awareness to the violation of human rights through young lives.
“Strong people do not need strong leaders and I believe that through education, young people can grow into strong people who understood that they themselves have human rights,” said Baker
Gutierrez-Vicario believes that this problem can be taught to young kids in a way that is easily understandable and affective. When Gutierrez-Vicario teaches young individuals about human rights, she has taken the approach of communicating the impact of these rights through visual art. This includes murals and other large projects that steer clear of the legal jargon that is usually involved with this topic.
“Young people want an opportunity to express themselves and through the arts, in particular the visual arts, we can learn about human rights in a creative and imaginative way,” said Gutierrez-Vicario.
Following Gutierrez-Vicario was Tanisha Christie. Christie has worked in various fields through out her career. Working in fields such as social work, social activism, film, and performance. Christie is an individual who excels in her role as an activist in the Ella Baker campaign.
Speaking as an artist at the panel Christie gave recognition to Ella Baker by explaining to the audience that Baker was an individual who led by example when her race limited her. She prevailed through those limits in order to make a change.
Today in our society, Christie goes on to say that we can make the same change Baker did through the power of Art. Having art as an outlet provides us to “speak truth to power,” said Christie.
After discussing “speaking truth to power” she then explained that there will be bumps along the way when trying to make a change but this doesn’t mean it can not be done. Her and various artists across the nation constantly strive to bring recognition to the power of art.
“This is a time required of artists and of all of us to be more imaginative then ever because speaking across differences requires amazing creativity,” said Christie.