The Subversive Art Festival Extravaganza at Tapp’s Arts Center is all about what happens when art and activism come together – but there’s a twist.
With a full line-up of bands, comedians, artists and interactive pieces, the festival is really about getting people engaged and having a good time doing it.
Brett Bursey, executive director of the S.C. Progressive Network, cites a quote commonly attributed to feminist Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.” The New Legacy Project, the Network’s youth coordinating body that presents the festival each year, has a mission to keep young activists “involved and engaged in a way that’s fun. … New Legacy tries to infuse that effort to educate and agitate with things that are culturally relevant and enjoyable,” Bursey said.
Now in its second year, SAFE 2.0 is dialing up the activism. This year’s theme, “Dream Dangerously,” aims to challenge the norm and re-frame the narrative of what is possible in this state. By adding new events like a peaceful rally at the State House, organizers hope the festival will inspire new activists and encourage more people to get involved with issues that matter.
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On Friday, Nov. 3, activists young and old can meet at 6 p.m. at the State House for the Find the Power Rally.
During the first half, graduates from the Modjeska School, a program led by the S.C. Progressive Network, will lead a tour through several controversial monuments on the State House grounds. The second half of the rally continues from the State House steps.
Omari Fox, an art teacher at two Swansea schools and vice chair of the Progressive Network’s executive committee, will emcee the evening.
On Saturday, the SAFE 2.0 title event will take place from 5 to 10 p.m. at Tapp’s Arts Center. The evening is designed to be a dynamic and interactive experience for both the artists and the audience.
Daniel Deweese, a co-founder of the New Legacy Project, said, “Several of the artists who participated last year are now working as activists.” Likewise, some of the activists have joined the local art community.
“It goes beyond protesting,” he said. He emphasized that SAFE 2.0 is aimed at engaging young people in a “multi-issue, multiracial, intergenerational, class-conscious popular movement.” He hopes that events like this one will lead to projects that will have a greater impact on policy, and a more “just and equitable South Carolina.”
The festival is still new, but its organizers are following a deep-rooted tradition of activism and art for change in Columbia.
The S.C. Progressive Network is inspired by the work of Modjeska Monteith Simkins, a Columbia native whom Bursey dubs the “grand dame of civil rights.” In 1946, Simkins helped carry out the Southern Negro Youth Congress at the Township Theater (now Township Auditorium), where W.E.B. DuBois served as keynote speaker. By 1976, she was a mentor for the Grass Roots Organizing Workshop in Columbia (GROW), which ultimately became the organization it is today.
Bursey, who has been organizing social justice events in Columbia for 50 years, said the New Legacy Project – as the next generation of young activists – is about looking toward the future.
They are “laying the solid groundwork of the past,” he said, “to inform our present and situate ourselves to fight for a better future.”
If you go
Subversive Art Festival Extravaganza
Find the Power Rally
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3.
WHERE: S.C. State House, 1100 Gervais St.
SAFE 2.0 Main Event
WHEN: 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4.
WHERE: Tapp’s Arts Center, 1644 Main St
Note: The previously scheduled “Corrupting the Youth” panel discussion has been postponed.
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