Art As Protest—A Never-Ending Outlet

Photo from

Judas and the Black Messiah, the newest film to be released, is making headlines as critics nationwide are praising the film set to be released on Feb. 12.

Inspired by true events, the film focuses on the Illinois Black Panther Party as they aim to inspire revolutionary change in their city as well as following the goals and missions of the Black Panther Party.

Starring Academy Award Nominee Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, viewers see these actors bring to light the challenges and triumphs of leading movements, bringing viewers into the world of protest, specifically through art.

Art As Protest — Black Panther Party

Artists everywhere often express their anger, hurt, passion and more through their creative outlets to spark change. As seen in Judas and the Black Messiah, a portion of change was contributed by the art shared throughout the community.

Emory Douglas, Revolutionary artist and former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party has been at the forefront of the party’s newspaper with his designs and art reflecting the issues and concerns of the community.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Art was a way of communicating back then,” Douglas said. “It was a language, a visual language. In that context I was able to use it as a tool to inform, to enlighten and to educate.”

When working with the film, Douglas looked back at his old pieces and reworked them to create art for the film. Douglas created a piece depicting Kaluuya as Chairman Fred Hampton, the leader who Douglas was able to work alongside.

“It was the spirit of love, compassion and understanding,” Douglas said. “It was the spirit of evolution and about what Fred Hampton stood for. All of that came into the artwork and I wanted it to reflect that.”

Current Art

While art was used by the Black Panther Party, years later art is still being used as a form of protest—a way in which individuals can voice their concerns and call others to action.

Following their predecessors, artists such as Dread Scott, Brandan “BMike” Odums and Nikkolas Smith are bringing awareness to the struggles and issues their community is facing through their creative outlets. Not only are they using their art to invoke emotions in the viewers but are inspiring a new generation to continue the cycle of using art as a language.

Smith, concept artist for Judas and the Black Messiah, is known for his work as an “artivist.” Not only had Smith contributed to the film but is contributing to local kids by providing them a space to be creative and use their voice, focusing on turning their dreams for the community into reality. In his work throughout the film and various other projects, Smith aims to combine both the timeless and timeliness.

Inspiring generational change is not the only thing these artists are doing. Odums, a visual artist known for his colorful wall-sized murals, highlights not only notable members within the community but the everyday person.

“It (art) has this agency that says we’re valuable, we’re important and we have what it takes to change things for the better,” Odums said.

While the work is often praised for bringing to light what some may consider “controversial,” not all are thrilled with the work displayed.

Scott, a visual artist known worldwide for his various exhibitions, has received backlash on how he brings attention to the issues his community has faced landing him in the middle of controversial topics and Supreme Court cases.

“The audience response is profound, it’s actually what gives the work soul and strength,” Scott said. “It’s not just me the artists but it’s the community interacting with it and engaging.”

Douglas, Scott, Odum and Smith are continuing their work and advocacy for their community as the issues the Black Panther Party brought to national attention are still prevalent.

Douglas urges viewers of the film and art to remain educated and informed on the subject matter to help combat the issues and concerns that have arisen throughout the years.

Viewers are able to stream Judas and the Black Messiah at home through their HBO Max subscription or by visiting their local theater. Tweet us, @VALLEYMag, with your thoughts on the film!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.