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ASU student building a community of black artists and leaders

ASU student Sekou Jackson

ASU sophomore Sekou Jackson. Photo by Macy Kimpland.

February 26, 2019

The revolution will not be televised, but it might very well be sold.

Arizona State University digital culture major Sekou Jackson points out the broken TV he painted on a bulletproof vest, a piece of art and activism that also features a globe on fire, a grave with a pile of money on it and the text “You cannot capitalize my skin, oppression or even this vest.”

The vest is just one statement among many in Jackon’s holistic skillset as an artist. He addresses everything from co-opting revolutionary action for profit (such as selling a T-shirt featuring revolutionary language) to police brutality to consumerism and so much more, using media as diverse as stop-motion animation, drawing and spoken word.

Whether he’s giving an impromptu speaking performance in front of the MU or making a visual piece like the vest, he wants to debunk racial myths, raise awareness and lift people up.

“Anything I do … I just want to put it out (into) the world where people can benefit from it,” said Jackson, a sophomore in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Jackson is dedicated to creating community and opportunities for black artists at ASU to showcase their revolutionary spirit and connect with each other to share resources, develop leadership skills and amplify their impact as community members.  

“You can’t change the world as one person,” said Jackson. “You need a collective.”

Jackson points to artists such as Aaron McGruder, the cartoonist behind "The Boondocks," as an inspiration. "The Boondocks" tackled racial and political issues in newspaper comics from 1999 to 2006 that still resonate today, said Jackson.

Like the protagonist in "The Boondocks," Jackson moved away from a familiar community. Raised on Long Island and in Washington, D.C., Jackson decided to come to ASU to thrust himself into a new environment and make his mark.

“A lot of my friends went to schools on the East Coast. A lot of my family members went to schools in the South, HBCUs … so I knew what type of experience I would get with that,” said Jackson. “I wanted to make my own change and my own legacy.”

Jackson is doing just that with a new student organization he is starting in the fall: Black Leaders, Artists and Creatives Society. The group will foster networking, support and community around creatives who want to be artistic leaders.

By connecting artwork to the activism of racial and economic equality, Jackson hopes to effect change that will improve his community.

“The world itself can change from just people helping each other or sharing ideas,” he said.

This story is part of an ASU Student Life series about ASU students who are making a difference in their own communities leading up to the Change the World showcase and competition at 5 p.m. on March 27, 2019, at Sun Devil Stadium. Students can register through Feb. 28 to be part of the showcase as a live performer, artist or competitor in the pitch competition. All students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend the event, which is free and open to the public.

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