Tag Archives: protest art

Local Musician Shares Her Story Of Activism

This article was originally published by Jersey Shore Online and written by Bob Vosseller.

JACKSON, USA – Kaleigh Brendle, 19, has headed back to Villanova University and either wants to be a disability rights attorney or a musician and with her energy, she could probably do both.

The teenager hasn’t let her visual limitations stop her love of performing music but it did inspire her to fight for proper accommodations for those who are visually impaired.

Brendle, a resident of Brick, and a high school graduate from Howell Township, worked to secure appropriate accommodations for those like herself from the College Board.

She also performed at the White House with a choir and also created a choir at the age of 14 for visually impaired singers. Brendle recently performed some of her own music as well as several cover songs during a Saturday afternoon program that was sponsored by the Jackson Friends of the Library.

Prior to her library appearance she spoke to Jersey Shore Online.com about how she responded to an unfair issue and beat the odds. During her presentation she would integrate music with an appropriate song related to the chronology of her story.

Kaleigh Brendle, 19, sits at the piano, left, as her mother Heather Brendle looks on prior to a performance the teen made at the Jackson branch of the Ocean County Library. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

“The songs supplement the story,” she said. The two stories she shared included one from 2020 which was an issue with the College Board regarding AP (advanced placement) exams. “They refused to provide blind and deaf test takers braille and other critical accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic and other test takers and I stood up against that and ultimately won that struggle and secured the braille that we needed.”

She said Jackson Librarian Christine Mecca asked her to talk about another advocacy project she undertook a year later as part of her senior thesis. “I went to a specialized program at a high school and so they required a capstone project where you can’t just write the presentation you actually have to start to institute change about whatever you are discussing.

“I want to be a disability rights attorney and what I ultimately chose was representation of disability in children’s media.” This included situation comedies, cartoons and some Disney programs.

“I was curious because growing up I’d never seen a disabled character on any of those outside of an episode. A blind character was on a Sesame Street episode, actually, a fraction of one. Is there something to that?” Brendle pondered.

Brendle made some sad discoveries. “The visual impairment representation that is awarded has a rate of one percent right now for children’s media for disability. It doesn’t give disabled kids someone to look up to when they are watching that. One in five Americans have some kind of disability now.”

“It is a pretty large group and to see it, they are either tokenizing or vilifying,” she added. She gave an example of tokenizing as the Sesame Street episode she referenced. “Where the character was only there for a fraction of an episode as if to check off a box.”

As for as vilifying, “a lot of villains in cartoons have some sort of defect or disability and that is a really bad angle to take and a consistency that is really troubling as it casts in a kid’s mind that being different are the bad ones and the ones to look out for,” she added.

Brendle released a video on social media that explained some of her research in a basic manner. “I started a campaign called ‘Out of Sight Out of Mind’ and it definitely got some attention. Unfortunately, I couldn’t advocate for it as much as I wanted to because I had to go to college right after that but any chance I get to talk about it and bring the issue to light, I definitely do that.”

She intends to contact Nickelodeon and Disney in the future “to see what is possible because that still is an existing issue.” She noted that Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon shows representation in having “autism or asperger’s and I believe there was a character on Modern Family who has something. There is more adult oriented programming that does have representation.”

She was joined by her mother Heather Brendle for the program who provided her some tips. Her mother said she was very proud of her daughter and her bright spirit even as she fought unsurmountable odds to make positive change.

The story selections she made to punctuate her saga included the songs “Rise Up,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “Smile,” the theme song from the animated film “Pocahontas” and “At Last.”

She was diagnosed with a condition commonly known as LCA. “It feels like I am extremely near sided when I have my very strong prescription glasses on. I don’t have any peripheral vision. I don’t have any depth perception. I can’t read print for long periods of time without getting substantial headaches.

“I have had it since birth and my brother who is totally blind has the same condition,” she added.

Her musical interest began at an early age as well. “My first memory of singing was my dad holding me up and me singing Sesame Street songs to passersby on the porch. I watched people stop and listen to me. It was one of those things that was always there. I don’t know quite how it began.

“When I watched my cartoons in the morning, I was addicted to PBS Kids which I think also fostered my love of reading too,” she said.

She noted how difficult the conditions of the COVID-19 shut down were during her senior year in high school. “I was completely remote for it and had very little contact with my peers and was exclusively in my house for 17 months and that can be really isolating for somebody. Music is how I really coped with it.”

“I am very much split on my two career interests of being an attorney and singer,” she said. She recently released an album, performed at the Algonquin Art Theater and won the Diane Turton Talent Show in 2018 where she performed a song off her album in front of 500 people.

Her first of several White House appearances with the Princeton Westminster Children’s Choir was quite memorable. “I had the honor of being the featured soloist and performing there is incredible. It is one of those things where you can’t believe it is actually happening. It is magical and we went during the Christmas holidays.

“We were performing for not only the diplomats but for their families and there were a lot of little kids and it was so, so cute,” the performer said.

Photo by Bob Vosseller

She formed the Sing for Serenity Choir “which is my pride and joy. It is an international online choir for the blind and visually impaired which I started five years ago. We have our own YouTube channel. We have members from over a dozen countries.”

“I’m creating a type of activism major at my college as there is an option to design your own major and what I am looking to create is using the legal system and using the media to advocate for positive change,” she added.

For further details about Brendle’s activism and musical journey visit her Choir for the Blind’s YouTube Channel.

Her link to the Twitter Video about her challenge with the College Board issue.

The link to the Twitter video about her Capstone Project (Disability Representation in Children’s Media).

New Collective Of Musicians And Activists Created In Response To Police Brutality At Peaceful Protests

What started in the UK has now grown into a global movement with participants and teams in the US, Brazil, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. The people behind the newly founded Black Music Movement decided they needed to use their voices as artists and respond to the brutality too often shown at peaceful protests.

“Whilst we are involved in protests, we have also set up community projects, we support artists to create material, we are working with schools & prisons and we are preparing a tour. We bring music to protests, but also bring protests to music, we use our art to educate and to strengthen and uplift communities, and we also aim to inspire and slowly change culture itself.”

Shouts spoke with organisers Juke and Phoenix who told me that while completing the process of becoming a non-profit organisation they are designing how the project can be a platform for activists and artists alike as well as an advocate for “those who have not received a fair shot at success in the creative industries due to their complexion, gender, sexuality or other forms of discrimination”.

The video below shows imagery of the organisation’s very first protest. Juke and Phoenix explained to me how important it is for the collective to “bring music to protests, but also bring protests to music”. To impact and change the culture itself is no small task which the organisers of Black Music Movement are fully aware of. That knowledge does not hinder their objectives though and the organisation is constantly welcoming new artists and activists to participate.

Check out the project’s Instagram page until their webpage is up and running.

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Artists Lend Their Voices To A New Documentary About Protest Art

If you recall statues of a naked Donald Trump popping up across cities in the US then you might have heard of the anonymous protest art collective Indecline. For the past few years the group has been collecting footage that now has turned into a 45 minute long documentary.

One unnamed representative for the group told Rolling Stone that “What was once set up to be a deep dive into the history of resistance art, soon became a ‘call to action.’”. Via Rolling Stone’s large platform the documentary can now exclusively be streamed in full.

Throughout the film we get a reminder of the stunningly creative, elaborate and always illegal protest art that Indecline has made like renting a room at Trump tower only to create a prison inside that room filled with rats and a Trump impersonator. Lending their voices to share their thoughts on protest art are some protest musicians such as Tom Morello, Moby, Fat Mike and Nadya Tolokonnikova among many more.

Damien Echols, who was wrongfully sent to death row as one of the West Memphis Three, speaks of how protest art literally helped save him from a state ordered execution.

Art and humour have long lived together as well. The film clearly shows how humour is necessary to get a message across. After all, humour is closely related to positivity – and kindness. One of the representatives of Indecline, when interviewed, has a cop in the background who is tied up on a chair. The Indecline representative quickly asks the cop if he is ok before continuing to answer the questions.

The film is directed by Colin Day who directed Saving Banksy. Banksy is another artist who’s work is documented in the film for his creative graffiti that has caught the attention (and inspired resistance) around the whole world.

Original photo credits: ©Hannah Verbeuren

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