Art + Activism = Social Justice

The collages below were created by members of the Diversity Peer Education Team (DPET) ( at Winter Semester Training, when asked how they have been affecting change at York University and in their personal lives. A visual representation says much more than any words could.


Visual art, music, poetry, film, theatre and dance have long been used as mediums for initiating social change. In my opinion, art, is the most effective form of human rights awareness, hence a necessary tool in social justice movements. Artivism (art + activism) captures a wider audience because it is a more inclusive form of expression. It has given voice to marginalized, racialized, queer identified and disenfranchised peoples. In other words, anybody who has something to say can be an artivist. Think of any campaign, protest or social movement, some form of art is involved – from chanting (poetry), to dancing, to singing to posters and other forms of grafitti.

Every year, the Centre for Human Rights hosts Inclusion Day. Inclusion Day is a free event that is filled with lots of interactive workshops and discussions on different human rights topics. This is my third time taking part in Inclusion Day events. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive as participation has contributed greatly to my perception of what it means to be an activist. The first time I went to Inclusion Day was out of curiosity because I didn’t understand many of the issues. Now I go because the different themes provide opportunity to learn something new. This year, Inclusion Day will be held on January 31st and the theme is Creating for Inclusion. All the sessions will deal with how various art forms are used to affect change. Sessions will touch on different subjects including accessibility rights, violence against women, queer and racialization, Indigenous rights and culture, gender and sexual identity, and many other topics.

Sessions will include:

  1. Blanketed by Shame, Empowered by Support – an interactive workshop led by Sahar Zaidi dealing with violence against women
  2. Creative Disability Activism and Culture: Doing Uncertainty while Gathering Fragments – a dialogue process led by Access York dealing with accessibility rights
  3. Sketching Voices: Calligraphy, Calligrafitti and Artivism – an interactive workshop led by Lucille Cremier exploring typographies as a tool for activism.
  4. Mask of Marginalization – an interactive and simulation workshop led by Saba Rafiq and Jair Kallidumbil dealing with power and allyship
  5. Why Dontcha Colour Me Queer and Read between the Lines: Creative Concepts for Breaking Barriers – a panel presentation by The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) challenging homophobia in the learning space.
  6. From Inclusion to Centralization: Trusting Your Own Wisdom Traditions – an interactive workshop led by Zainab Amadahy dealing with Indigenous wisdom
  7. Children’s Literature, Ethics and Genocide: The Residential School Experience – an individual presentation about Residential Schools by Jeffrey Canton
  8. I Do What I Want: Vaginas and their Behaviour – a dance video showing followed by Q&A with Vanessa Jane Kimmons

The keynotes will be delivered by Priscila Uppal, a poet, novelist and professor; and d’bi young anitaafrika (who will also be holding an interactive session of her own), a dubpoet, monodramatist and educator. I know! Poets delivering keynotes!! They will certainly be keynotes like you’ve never heard before. There will also be an art show at the AGYU in addition to the day’s activities by Toronto Artist, Deanna Bowen. Deanna goes back in time to bring us honest, revolutionary, thought provoking and radical exhibits that centre on racism.

A full schedule of the day’s events including time and registration information is posted online at

If you are looking to explore your artivist side, this is the event for you. If you would like more information on Inclusion Day and other Centre for Human Rights workshops, DPET is always at the Red Zone kiosk on Wednesdays between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.


Do you know the different forms of Artivism? Here are some examples:

  • Culture Jamming:

Is the act of disrupting or subverting media culture, mainstream institutionalism and corporate advertising. It’s a political movement that targets consumerism and globalization movements. A great example of a movement that employs culture jamming is Adbusters

  • Subvertising:

Is the transformation of existing media and advertising images into satirical images. It’s a combination of culture jamming and social hacking

  • Spoken Word:

Is a word based performance art that combines drama, music and at times dance. Spoken word dates back to Ancient Greece and one of the more famous spoken word albums is Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution will Not be Televised.

  • Dub Poetry:

Is a form of politically and socially charged performance poetry of West Indian origin that centers on current events. It features spoken word with Reggae rhythms.

  • Protesting:

Is an expression of objection through civil resistance, by words or by actions, to events, policies or situations. The most common methods of protesting include mass demonstrations, individual statements and hunger strikes.

  • Hacktivism:

Is a growing form of artivism that involves internet freedom activism. Hacktivism is the act of hacking, or breaking into a computer system, for a politically or socially motivated purpose. The individual who performs an act of hacktivism is said to be a hacktivist. Reddit cofounder and hacktivist, the late Aaron Swartz (RIP Aaron) was a hacktivist who campaigned for freer access to data.

That’s all folks… for now at least!


4 thoughts on “Art + Activism = Social Justice

  1. Pingback: 15 artful ways to improve conferences | Creative Resistance

  2. Pingback: 15 Artful Ways To Improve Conferences | PopularResistance.Org

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