Ingrid Lafleur, the transformative Detroit-based artist, curator and political organizer, recently engaged in a lively conversation with Rasheedah Phillips, a Philadelphia-based lawyer, community organizer, and science-fiction writer.
The two discussed a range of topics, including Detroit’s art and music scene, the power of the Black imagination, and the importance of centering Black joy and liberation.
Lafleur and Phillips explored the ways in which art and culture can be used to transform communities, as well as the power of storytelling to create new realities and push for social justice.
They shared stories and experiences that emphasized the importance of collective action and community building in order to create lasting, meaningful change.
Their conversation was inspiring and reminded us of the power of the human spirit to create a more equitable and just world.
Rasheedah Phillips: There is a lot of conversation about how the art scene in Detroit is very prominent, especially in terms of music and electronic music.
I’ve been really curious about how the art scene came about in Detroit and how it has evolved throughout the years. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Ingrid Lafleur: Yeah, I mean, I think that Detroit, first of all, has a long history, longer than most people know, of creative people coming here.
There are a lot of reasons, but the one that’s probably most relevant to their art scene is that the cost of living is low. So, there’s been a lot of people who have come here because they can afford to make art here, which is a big part of it.
RL: You’ve said that the Black imagination is a powerful thing that can transform everything. Can you talk about what you mean by that and what’s at stake for us in terms of how we’re imagining our lives?
LI: Sure. I think that one of the things that people often talk about when we’re talking about Blackness — and Blackness is a very, very diverse group of people — is that the Black imagination is an inherent part of being Black.
But, I think that our imagination has been constrained by the way that we’ve been treated in our society. I think that the imagination has been constrained by racism, by sexism, by all of these issues that we’re dealing with as Black people.
RL: Can you talk about the importance of centering Black joy and liberation in our community?
LI: Yeah. I think it’s not only important, but it’s a necessity. Black joy is like a mandate. It’s something that we have to do. I also think that it’s something that we have yet to accomplish.
RL: You’ve talked a lot about the idea of transforming communities through art and culture. Can you talk about the importance of art and culture in the work that you do?
LI: Sure. So, the work that I do is a lot of different things. But, one of the things that I do is a social and political analysis of the things that are happening in Detroit.
So, I’ll write about things in the news, but I’ll write about them using Detroit as a lens, using our community as a lens. So, I do a lot of writing about issues in our city and in our state, but I also write about issues in our nation and in our world.
And so, I think that art and culture are, in many ways, like the fuel that we need to make these kinds of things happen.
RL: I think it’s beautiful what you’re saying about the power of storytelling, and how that can be used to create change. Can you talk about the power of storytelling, and what that looks like?
LI: Sure. I think that storytelling, in general, is something that’s very human. We all do it. We all do it with our friends and with our family and in our community, even if we’re not aware that we’re doing it.
And, it’s really beautiful when we use it as a conscious act to make change. So, I think that storytelling is something that we can bring to our organizing. We can bring it to our conversations with our friends and with our family.
We can bring it to our work in the community. I think that it can be applied to most things that we do, but we have to be mindful of how we do it.
RL: As we wrap up, I’d love for you to share a story or experience that you’ve had in terms of collective action and building community in Detroit.
LI: Sure. So, I co-founded a collective called Detroit Revolt. It’s a creative collective that is rooted in Detroit. It’s a group of artists and writers and musicians and filmmakers and other creatives who work together to make art and to make political change.
And so, one of the things that we did was we did a project called “We Stand Up.” And, this was about a year ago. We had just had a radical left person killed. And, I was wondering what was going to happen to us, like “What do we have to say? What do we have to do?
What do we have to put out there?” And, I was kind of just like, “I don’t know.” I was feeling very lost and very confused. I was confused about what our response should be to this.
But then, I was thinking, “Well, where do we go? What do we do? Where do we start?”
I was trying to think of the right questions to ask. And then, I was like, “I don’t know what the right questions are.” And then, I realized, “Wait a minute.”
If I don’t know what the questions are, then I don’t know the answers either.
So, I was like, “Wait a minute, there are a lot of people who are probably feeling the same way that I am.” So, I wanted to create a project that would provide a space for people to do their own healing work.
And, I wanted it to provide a space for people to share their own stories. And, so, we did this project called “We Stand Up.”
RL: And, how would you like to wrap this up? What is the importance of lasting, meaningful change?
LI: I think that lasting, meaningful change is something that you have to put a lot of work into. It’s something that you have to put a lot of thought into.
And, it’s something that you have to be willing to risk failing at. And, I think that that’s something that a lot of people aren’t willing to do. They’re not willing to risk failing because they’re afraid. Or, they don’t want to look bad.
They don’t want people to think that they’re stupid. Or, they don’t want people to think that they’re wrong. And, those are really silly things to be thinking about when you’re trying to make lasting, meaningful change.
And with that, we conclude this episode on the power of the human spirit to create a more equitable and just world.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and found it as inspiring as we did. In this age of heightened bigotry and hate, it is more important than ever to stand in solidarity with one another.
Now is the time to reject isolation and embrace connection with others. Now is the time to resist despair and cultivate hope. We invite you to join us on this journey towards a more just and equitable world.
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