Adam Eli-Warner - spring 2017

The Activists

The events of 2016 galvanised a generation of young Americans to speak out — we spotlight the activists organising for real change in the first of a three part series

Part of Dazed's Activism Week, focusing on a new generation of creatives rising up in a post-Trump world

You can buy a copy of our latest issue here. Taken from the spring 2017 issue of Dazed:

When President Trump won the 45th US Presidential election in 2016, the New York Times declared it “a stunning repudiation of the establishment.” And yet for many on the afternoon of November 8, it felt like progress had suddenly been set in reverse. Many of Trump’s native New Yorkers took to the streets with banners and flaming effigies — symbols of resilience and revolt in the face of impending doom.

As protests continue to ignite across America this year, we platform a young generation taking charge of their nation’s future — from protecting trans rights in the prison system, to standing in the way of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Angelina Dreem - spring 2017
Angelina wears cable-knit jumper rag & bone, leopard-print beret Beyond RetroPhotography Fumi Nagasaka, styling Emma Wyman

ANGELINA DREEM

“I try to stay away from most privately-funded news sources — we are constantly being fed lies and terror’’, explains Angelina Dreem, visual artist and founder of POWRPLNT, an art space connecting teens with established artists for free

As someone who sets up community-minded events for people interested in subversive art — how empowered do you feel as a young artist in America?

I have always felt empowered to do whatever I want. I have authority defiance disorder and have, since I was young, been actively in resistance against what people have told me what to do. The art of DIY spaces and underground culture is an artist's most important asset, I think that without these places culture has no teeth. We are fighting for our lives against monoculture brainwashing. The situation in New York is different than other places financially - but I think the Ghost Ship tragedy has shown us that we as artists would rather put ourselves in precarious living and working situations than be silenced or repressed for creating and living in the way that we see fit. The only way we can afford to do anything is by doing it together.

What are some of the more ambitious projects you’ve worked on since starting POWRPLNT two years ago?

I think POWRPLNT has been the most ambitious project that I have ever done. I started POWRPLNT because I had graduated from college and couldn’t even get an internship because I didn't know web design or photoshop. I went full rebel after that, to this day I still haven’t had a “real job” or have any experience in corporate or institutional settings. My best advice to artists and activists is to take the first step, to start meeting with a friend that believes in your vision and do it. Nothing happens for people that don't try.

As a young person, how important is it to read up on local issues, and remain politically active and engaged?

I listen to public access radio every day. I try to stay away from most privately-funded news sources as this “Post-Truth” reality. We are constantly being fed lies and terror and I think it works to abstract reality and to divide us. Every space where people are gathering in a common goal is a political action, whether it's a dinner or a clothing swap or a Black Lives Matter meeting. Showing up is the best thing we can do right now, for our friends and our communities.

Tell us about the Net Art workshops you’re hoping to set up, and your wider plans for the rest of 2017.

We have set up a lot of workshops - from music production to GIF and zine making - and also just started a residency program where we will be collaborating with artists and collectives to create the curriculum and to help activate the space. My biggest plan, however, is to expand this idea of a franchise DIY space - sort of taking everything we have learned and making it accessible. I want everyone in the world to have access to the digital world, to feel empowered to live what they believe in and to find others that resonate. The internet is our collective conscious, and my idea is to have POWRPLNT as the space where this materialises. I think we will see massive organising and a super-powerful youth resistance in 2017, which will cause people to pay attention. I hope to collaborate and make art with others that is both political, beautiful and healing. And to always help make dreams reality.

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Amani Al-Khatahtbeh - spring 2017
Amani wears lambskin trenchcoat Balmain, all other clothes and accessories her ownPhotography Fumi Nagasaka, styling Emma Wyman

AMANI AL-KHATAHTBEH

Meet Amani Al-Khatahbeh, the author and tech entrepreneur, who at 17 founded MuslimGirl.com with the aim to right the media's wrongful depictions of Muslim women

What were you experiencing as a young Muslim woman in New Jersey that inspired the project, and your temporary relocation to Jordan?

I started Muslim Girl out of my teenage bedroom when I was a high school senior. I was fed up with the media's inaccurate portrayals of Muslim women and felt excluded from the conversations taking place about my identity. It was already hard enough having to grow up post-9/11. I wanted to find other Muslim girls of my generation that were experiencing and feeling the same things as me. Out of a sheer need for survival, my Muslim women friends and I felt that we deserved a space where we could actually center our voices, as well as a platform that could amplify our authentic narratives.

In a post-Trump America, how important is it for anti-Trump supporters to continue to feel empowered and to work with each other to inspire Muslim women?

At this time, it's really important for our allies to step up and fight alongside us in this struggle against anti-Muslim bigotry. Muslim women are bearing the brunt of the hateful rhetoric happening on a national scale. It's a real life or death situation for us. The only way we will be able to move forward and progress together is if our allies intervene on our behalf when things get dangerous and share in the burden of educating people. We can't allow divisions to separate us and we have no choice but to be hopeful.

What hopes do you have for 2017?

I think that for the years ahead, I will place my bets on women. If there's anything I've learned throughout our MuslimGirl.com journey, it's the sheer power and magic of sisterhood. I have a lot of faith that women from all different backgrounds will realise that we are all in this together. It’s my personal goal to use 2017 to not only continue to amplify our voices, but to use every opportunity to uplift other marginalised women's narratives and give them space in our ongoing struggle for representation. I'm most excited about being able to offer our readers a little token of solitude through our first product launch, the #MuslimGirlArmy Care Package - a monthly subscription box catering to the real needs and lifestyles of Muslim women navigating today's reality.

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Jheyda McGarrell - spring 2017
Jheyda wears silk jacket 3.1 Phillip Lim, jewellery her own.Photography Fumi Nagasaka, styling Emma Wyman

JHEYDA McGARRELL 

“I think art is one of the most powerful weapons we have against violence perpetuated by media and the government” - meet body-positive photographer and Art Hoe contributor, Jheyda McGarrell.

Tell me about your photography work — what is inspiring your art in 2017?

Right now, I'm focusing on body image and trying to make a lasting change in what people consider dreamy and beautiful. Many people like me have grown up never seeing images of people that look like them being romanticised. This lack of representation creates a mindset of self-doubt and self-loathing for many POC, plus-sized people, etc. I'm really interested in gaining representation for all marginalised people, Art Hoe works to gain representation for people of colour in artistry, and in my own personal work I like to represent people who, like myself when I was younger, are searching so desperately for someone like them to look up to and see as beautiful, powerful, and capable. A lot of my other work is mostly documentary photography, which I define as photographing my everyday life and the events that are coming to define me as a young queer Black Mexican American woman.

A lot of what is inspiring my art in 2017 is the recent election and how it will heavily affect my family of Mexican immigrants and the mass of art by black artists released in late 2016. I've also been really inspired on a more personal level by self-healing and self-acceptance. Recently, Solange's A Seat At The Table is really inspiring me to be more open about my own mental health and how it’s affected by the racism.

In the grand scheme of things, how can we use photography and art to challenge the patriarchy?

I think art is one of the most powerful weapons we have against violence perpetuated by media and the government. With our art, we can challenge beauty standards, policies, and so much more. Directly, I believe we can challenge the patriarchy by challenging the patriarchal lens that, sometimes, femmes/LGBTQ/POC are forced to make art through. If we decolonize our art, we can begin to see a more accurate representation of the black, queer, female experience that has been whitewashed.

Given your work as a community organiser, how effective do you feel protests are?

It's a common misconception that protestors are (about) blindly rejecting policies and (are) uninformed, but contrary to that, a large part of these events (are about) informing people of their rights, especially those being used while protesting. I believe gatherings, conversations, and protests have the ability to influence and affect the political climate.

How will Art Hoe be engaging in the post-Trump protest conversation in 2017?

In 2017, some of my goals for the collective is that we engage in the post-election conversation by having more community-based events, so people affected by this election know they have (the) community to turn to heal and express their hurt. We are planning on taking the collective into many more physical spaces, and hosting events such as art shows, community discussions like the one we did in December on Standing Rock. Our first event of this year is going to be an art show, in Brooklyn, in a community space ran and owned entirely by people of colour. We are also going to be producing other content such as zines curated by the collective.

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Adam Eli-Warner - spring 2017
Adam wears striped short-sleeved shirt Fendi, t-shirt, jewellery his own, jeans Calvin Klein, tights SockShopPhotography Fumi Nagasaka, styling Emma Wyman

ADAM ELI-WERNER

“The best way to stay positive is to act” — aside from his work in real estate, Adam Eli-Werner organises anti-Trump rallies and is an LGBTQI rights campaigner.

Hi Adam. How important is it for young people who don’t support Trump to remain positive and politically active?

The night after the election everyone flooded the streets. We marched up Broadway chanting: “When X lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand Up Fight Back!” That X was Muslim. That X was trans, immigrant, black, queer, Mexican and more. Unity breeds hope and hope brings change. That’s an American Dream I’d like to wake up to.

You must have fairly tight people skills to work as a real estate salesman, and previously, as a fashion publicist. How have you used these to activate people and to organise protests?

Being a salesman taught (me) that understanding the problem is the most important part of finding a solution. After the Pulse Massacre a lot of people were devastated and didn't know what to do next. So the night of the vigil at Stonewall I posted on FB, Twitter and Instagram: “Come and meet me at the corner of 11th street and 7th Ave at 7pm, we'll head down together,” and a huge group showed up. It was a rough night and none of us were alone.

Public relations is about storytelling. When I was a publicist I did social media from events and as an activist I do social media from protests. In both cases the goal is to be clear about your message, increase your engagement and give your audience a snapshot of what it's like to really be there.

Tell us about a few successful protests you’ve organized.

During my freshman year of high school there was a rally being planned in Washington D.C. to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur. I got enough people (so) interested that my school commissioned a coach bus. The next week, our numbers doubled and a second bus was ordered.

Where do you live in New York and how would you say the city’s LGBTQI community reacted to Trump’s victory?

Like my ancestors, queer and Jewish, I live in Greenwich Village. One 70-year-old AIDs and Gays Against Guns activist said it best, “Our community has seen far worse than this and we aren’t going anywhere!”

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Bryant Dope - spring 2017
Photography Fumi Nagasaka, styling Emma Wyman

BRYANT DOPE

“We must hold those in office accountable for their actions, from the head of state to local officials. We must remain vigilant and understand that this is a country for the people” — meet rapper, activist, and actor, Bryant Dope.

Alongside your music work, you starred in Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down.  Will you be pursuing your acting career this year? 

This year I really plan to push more music out. Last year I released my project "How It Is Now", which was well received, so this year I think I might drop a bunch of music. I've just been in the studio trying to make the best music possible. I'm so thankful for Baz (for) believing in me. It was an experience I will always cherish and it's helped open new doors that I can go through. I plan to do more acting this year, it just depends on the right part. In The Get Down I was able to play Keith Cowboy, the first MC and an important figure in the history of hip-hop. Sharing his narrative with the world was really important to me because he was a person so important to this culture. I believe that there is a similarity in music and acting, in which the artist is always looking for the truth. If there's a role that comes along in which I get to share someone's truth, I will for sure take it. 

How important is it for young people to remain positive and feel empowered after the election result?

After the election result, I felt discouraged but not completely diminished. I believe in the power of the people regardless of who is the head of the country. I believe (that) now is time for all people to rise up and let their voice be heard. We must hold those in office accountable for their actions, from the head of state to local officials. We must remain vigilant and understand that this a country for the people. We have to know that we have the power and without us there is no government. It's important for young people to organize and know their rights. As young people we have to come together to create a better country and a better system. Progression will only come once all those who are oppressed come together.

How do you use your music and your message to connect to and empower people, politically — and how important is music as a tool for protest?

Most of my music is self-reflective. I try to express my truth so others can understand and relate to it. I try to provide people with a raw view of how I, and those around me, view the world. I try not to sugarcoat anything, if my music makes you uncomfortable, good; now we can have a conversation. Whatever I'm feeling will come out in my music. On my last project How It Is Now, I made a song called "Rage". On that song I expressed how I felt watching the senseless murders by the hands of police in this country. That song was me in my rawest form, it was a direct reflection of how my friends and I felt at that moment. I look up to people such a Muhammad Ali, who risked it all for what they believe in. I know that it's important no matter what I'm making to speak my truth. I think it's important for all artists especially now to express how they truly feel in their music. Once we open those doors of conversation we can get to the root of everything and come to a conclusion. Art is a reflection of society and as artists we have a duty to provide a true reflection of the world we live in.

You’ve posted about new music for 2017 on Twitter — can you tell us what this might be and some of the topics you’ll be addressing in it?

I just finished up a new project with my long-time collaborator and producer Marc. R. We've been friends since we were 11 and this is the first time we've been able to collaborate on a full project. I've always approached music by what is going on in the world and also around me. Sometimes it's personal stories, and other times it's the stories of my friends that don't have a medium to express their truth. Some of the time my music is political, especially in the climate America is in right now. As an African-American man in America, I have a duty to speak not only for myself but for those without a voice. My parents come from Haiti and my mother filled me with a pride about my culture growing up. As a kid growing up in New York City, my mother and I often had different views because my experience as a black man in America is different from her experience growing up in Haiti. I've always viewed my history with a sense of strength no matter how dark it is at times. I've always felt the need to express that, whether it be one line or a concept-driven song. I speak about love, music, personal battles and everything that goes into the human experience.

Make up and grooming Ingeborg using Surratt Beauty and Leonor Greyl Haircare, set design Jonathan Gillen, photographic assistants Kohei Kawashima, Eduardo Silva, styling assistants Ioana Ivan, Shawn Lakin, Nina Perlman