"Creativity is Key to Thinking Beyond What is Currently Happening"

As part of the most recent ODIE photo editorial with photographer Sarrah Danziger, I asked two New Orleans creatives to wear new pieces and share their own perspectives on advocacy, art, and identity in regards to their respective fields.

Raven Crane is a queer filmmaker, curator, and organizer who states that “creativity is key to thinking beyond what is currently happening.” They are currently serving as the Project Coordinator for the upcoming Slave Rebellion Reenactment community-based performance, in addition to other personal projects.

Matt Campbell supports mission-based organizations through his work as a team member at trepwise. During his time at the company, he has been able to work with nonprofits focused on Career and Technical Education for K-12 students in New Orleans, and more.

Read on to learn about both of their experiences and hear their perspectives on unlearning untruths and spreading truth.

How do you give back to your community through art or advocacy efforts? 

Raven: I guess I have a hard time with this question, as the idea of giving back can sometimes feel transactional. I think showing up as my whole self and taking care of myself is already an important act in itself because capitalism really discourages that possibility. That way I can show up and support folx in the community.

In regards to advocacy, I always try to think of how everyone can't be in the space, and who are the people who aren't getting in the space with me, and why? This is an important question I am always asking to make sure I am combating “isms” in organizing and not just creating a false sense of inclusion. 

How do you feel art and creativity work together to strengthen advocacy efforts? 

Raven: I think art and creativity are crucial to my activism and transforming the world. You have to radically imagine something different when living under extreme conditions of oppression. Creativity is key to thinking beyond what is currently happening. I think some of my favorite organizer folks I look up to incorporate art and creativity. You have to think outside of the box to want to abolish prison— an artist can visualize and put into movement alternatives to the current reality, and that's rad to me. An artist who engages with and is willing to engage in the political can create space or futurity, and healing spaces for us to move beyond where we are.

Would you like to talk specifically about your involvement with trepwise and how they help non-profits?

Matt: Although we work with for-profit organizations as well, many clients at trepwise are non-profit organizations. trepwise is a growth consulting firm that looks to leverage insight across industries to power organizations to maximize their potential. 

During my time here, I’ve been able to work with nonprofits focused on Career and Technical Education (CTE) for K-12 students in New Orleans. The first role in my career came as a corps member in Miami through Teach For America, and I’ve enjoyed working with organizations that make a positive impact on education. As students prepare for an increasingly competitive society, in a country that already has inequitable access to opportunity, efforts to improve K-12 education are very important.

How do you feel art and creativity work together to strengthen advocacy efforts? 

Matt: One major component of activism is identity. It’s often what motivates individuals to take part in activism in the first place. That connection to the self and identity is strengthened through art and creativity. People often think of art and creativity through the traditional mediums, but I consider working on myself as a continuous project that has continued to have positive results in my life.

As people become more grounded in their identities it becomes easier to speak to their truths, and ultimately share it with others. In my own life, I’ve seen how creativity and the introspection that comes out of it has led me to discover parts of myself I would not have found otherwise. And as a result, I’ve felt more empowered by my identity and using my voice to speak out against injustice.


A big focus for ODIE is "unlearning lies history books taught us." What are some untruths that you've had to unlearn and how did you go about that process?

Matt: I’m a first generation American, both my parents are from Jamaica, and growing up, I had the opportunity to learn in great environments. For most of my time growing up, 8 onwards, I lived in Metro Detroit in a city called Rochester Hills, a predominantly white suburb. If you simply followed the path, going to a decent university or starting your career did not come with much difficulty. I’m very dark in complexion, and although I had occurrences during childhood and adolescence where others drew attention to this fact in a negative light, I was raised with the assurance that I could compete at the highest of levels. However, through my experiences, I had to unlearn the untruth that our country is a meritocracy that rewards hard work. Although there are instances where hard work is properly rewarded, there are a number of circumstances that have to also be in place. Living in the right zip code is one of them.

Fast forward to my time working as a teacher in Miami-Dade Public Schools through Teach For America and I began to have a deeper understanding of the disparities in education and the country as a whole. It became clear that the opportunities to succeed for my mostly black students were much smaller than students learning 20 minutes away. They were also inundated with narrow examples of who they could become. One aspect of living a privileged life is to have many examples to represent the many options in life you could take to success. In the school I taught at, and others like it, there were not enough easily accessible examples to represent the myriad of directions students could take to self actualize. This challenged my understanding of my own journey to a prestigious school like the University of Michigan, and my affiliation with organizations like TFA.

During this time, notable deaths on camera also began to happen at an alarming rate. I remember the summer after my first year in the classroom when I watched Eric Garner’s death on video. At first I experienced extreme sadness, but it also sparked an interest in the history of United States, including trans-Atlantic slavery, post-Civil War society, and African history. During this time, I dug deeper into my identity than I ever had before and beyond the feeling of knowing I could offer value to the world at the highest level regardless of my skin color, I also started to feel very prideful of my African ancestry. The resilience, creativity, and magic that individuals throughout the diaspora have exhibited regardless of their circumstances is a true inspiration to me. When I’m at my lowest, it’s what keeps me going, and without unlearning the untruth of a just country, I would not have connected with my identity in that way. 

How do you "spread truth" about your own personal beliefs or missions that are important to you? 

Raven: I try to share books, engage in difficult conversations when I have the capacity, and really try to not bite my tongue as much as possible. As the great Lorde said: “and when we speak we are afraid, our words will not be heard, nor welcomed, but when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering, we were never meant to survive.” ―Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems.

Shop the pieces from the collection here.

View the full editorial by photographer Sarrah Danziger here.