Friday, January 16, 2009

Reflections on Art and Social Change

by Rosina Kazi of LAL
Basics Issue #12 (Jan/Feb 2009)

I have been involved with the band lal as the lead singer for just over ten years, and we have always made a point of connecting music with issues of social justice. This need came from our own personal and communal experiences. What we share is an intimate experience of injustice, but our ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, physical ability are only some ways which create differences in our experiences; and many of us aren’t aware of how our privileges or lack thereof, play out in the world we live in, in our public and personal lives.

Nicholas Murray, Rosina Kazi, and Ian de Souza of LAL (left to right).

Almost everyone will experience some sort of injustice in their lives. If we can connect with one another through this shared experience, while recognizing that some of us have a more difficult struggle, whether or not it’s obvious, then maybe we can move forward. We talk about diversity and it’s importance but we do we embrace diversity in beliefs and experiences in a real way? Do we create solid friendships? Are we creating a community that is diverse in thought, class, gender, sexuality etc? Essentially becoming family? I believe part of it is working on how not to place judgment on others and ourselves, essentially learning to love ourselves completely.

It is through music that I have found a way to connect with people. We have worked hard to create a space that is inclusive. But this creative endeavor is something that involves many, not just the three members of lal. It includes activists, artists, academics, queer, straight, and questioning peoples, artists, art enthusiasts, business people, the old and young etc… We don’t plan on ‘making it big’, only because to do so would throw us in a world that we dislike: a world of intense hierarchy and bullshit. The reality is that the entire world functions in this way, and those of us sensitive to hierarchy and injustice find ourselves lost and continually trying to create something different, not being afraid of change and embracing and acknowledging our own mistakes, as hard as this can be.

Our work with No One is Illegal (NOII) has very much inspired our latest cd ‘Deportation’ and we’ve been working with NOII over the last 4 years to get the word out about the work NOII has been doing, fighting for the right for non-status peoples to live with dignity and respect in Toronto and in Canada.

In the end, I believe creativity must go hand in hand with social movements and activism. We should not be cliquey and should provide avenues for all to take part, using art, not as a weapon but as a tool for personal and political change.