DJ Reborn: Writing, music, and visual art reflect issues on people’s minds

  • DJ Reborn spinning.DJ Reborn spinning.
  • DJ Reborn talking to the mural team.DJ Reborn talking to the mural team.
  • DJ Reborn showing Shaquoya her method.DJ Reborn showing Shaquoya her method.
  • Mural team working in the Sonic Workshop with DJ Reborn.Mural team working in the Sonic Workshop with DJ Reborn.
  • Adaiah trying out DJ Reborn's spinning techniques.Adaiah trying out DJ Reborn's spinning techniques.

The sonic workshop by DJ Reborn on Emory Douglas’s artwork explored the connection between Douglas’s artwork, social and political movements, and music. DJ Reborn gave the mural team an explanation of what a DJ does and the history of DJing. Participants then introduced themselves by first name, and then chose a DJ name based on the work in the exhibition. For example: “My name is Leann and my DJ name is DJ Visual Revolution because that is what Douglas’s work represents.”

Definitions/Historical Context

Participants were then asked to identify the themes in Douglas’s work, and to define protest music. What are the criteria? What are the conditions that create it? Do any of Emory Douglas’s pieces in particular come to mind? Can protest music be created without that intent? Do musical artists have a responsibility to make protest music? Why? Why not? Are there songs that fire you up or inspire you to act? Is there a void in current popular music of this genre? DJ Reborn then gave a talk about the history of protest music, discussing its relationship to the work in the exhibition.

Giving a quick demonstration of a protest song mix with images from the exhibit in the background, participants listened to and examined some of the lyrics from artists such as Gil Scott-Heron (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”), Tupac (“Keep Your Head Up”), Kanye West (“Diamonds Are Forever”), Janelle Monae (“Many Moons”), Queen Latifah (“Ladies First”), Public Enemy (“Fight the Power”), Marvin Gaye (“Inner City Blues”), James Brown (“Say it Loud”), and Blackstar (“Thieves in the Night”).

Participants working in pairs chose images from the exhibition to “mix” together along with pertinent protest songs. Volunteers presented their mixes, and shared why they chose each one.

For a list of protest songs used during the workshop, click here.

DJ Reborn: Writing, music, and visual art reflect issues on people’s minds

In keeping with a goal of G:Class to provide students with an opportunity to work with professional artists, the mural team participated in a sonic workshop with DJ Reborn exploring the connection between Douglas’s artwork, social and political movements, and music. While making connections, students also learned critical thinking, art-making, and collaboration skills.