Artists and Activism | Meet Our In Session Panelists

Artists and Activism | Meet Our In Session Panelists
ArtistsOctober 5, 2020

This week on In Session, we’re hosting a panel discussion with two artists we’re keen to hear talk about their roles as activists in their communities. Register to be a part of the discussion on Thursday to learn more about using your voice as an activist. But first, learn more about our inspiring panelists, Tina Mathieu, and Eze Jackson, below!

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Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Tina: Hi! I’m Tina Mathieu. I’m an indie alternative soul singer-songwriter originally from South Florida. I lived in NYC for over a decade and am now based in Los Angeles. In addition to my solo artist project, I also write for film and tv as half of the positive pop duo, Real Fiction. I sing for social justice initiatives, political events and faith communities. I’m a single mom trying my best to raise a compassionate, socially conscious human in a strange world. Therapy, mountain trails and cannabis bring me sanity, perspective and inspiration.

Eze: I’m a rapper, singer-songwriter, activist and now President of my new entertainment company, EPIC FAM. I’ve been an active artist in the city of Baltimore for over 15 years. A Baltimore boy with a passion for the people and stories that come from my city.

What first inspired you to get involved in your community as an activist?

Tina: On February 14th, 2018, at my alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 17 people were murdered, 17 injured and an entire community traumatized by the hands of a young male with a semi-automatic weapon. I watched my high school on the news, students evacuating the hallways I used to walk, teachers I knew and cared for trying to protect students and themselves from this ONE person with this ONE weapon. The day Emma Gonzalez stood at that podium and shouted, “We call BS!” was a life-changing moment for me. I was inspired, moved to tears, and yet felt helpless and like the only thing I knew how to do was write a song. So I did that. I wrote and released ‘One Step Closer’ as an anthem for March for Our Lives, with all the proceeds going back to the movement in support of legislation to prevent gun violence. The song is about the work. It’s about the endurance it takes to create radical change. Every time we show up, we are one step closer to accomplishing our goal. I reached out to rally, protest, and vigil organizers contacted every gun violence prevention organization and offered up my services to sing and speak as an alumnus at any of their events. They responded and I followed through. To this day, every time I sing that song it is an emotional and powerful experience.

Eze: After high school, I served in the US Navy for 4 years. While I was an active duty service member, I experienced racism on levels I’d only heard about before. Having been taught in my upbringing to stand up for myself and others, I quickly realized that I was fighting to preserve and protect a right that, as a service member, I could not utilize myself. The right to protest, to petition, to rally against those who intend to harm or oppress and a group of people.

Tina performing at a March for Our Lives event.

How has your relationship with activism changed in the past few years?

Tina: When I started singing for gun violence prevention events a few years ago, I thought I was a single-issue voter and that was the most important cause to me. As my eyes were opened to the endless injustices that people of this “free” country suffer from, as I became more exposed to the dangers of our current administration, as I recognized the power in engaging with students on college campuses and registering them to vote - it really dawned on me how many more issues I deeply care about and how much I can contribute by just showing up and being ready to volunteer, sing, speak, write postcards, phone bank… the list goes on. When I use my art and my time to fight for justice, I am not the star. It’s not about me or the Spotify streams I might get on my “fight song”. It’s about how little ‘ol me can contribute to a much bigger picture.

Eze: I’m older now and finding myself taking a backseat to the younger activists when it comes to organizing. I find myself giving advice and providing connections to resources more these days as well as using my platform to create space for conversations and education.

How do your roles as an activist and an artist influence your life?

Tina: Being an artist is something I couldn’t get away from even if I tried and I had been seeking a deeper purpose in my music for the longest time. Gig life is hard. Being an artist is filled with self-doubt, comparison, opportunistic relationships, financial struggles, etc. When I stepped into my calling to use my art for something greater than myself, I started to see a whole world of purpose open up. I felt useful, helpful, appreciated and inspired. Being an activist is hard too though - always feeling like you HAVE to have a public opinion posted on social media about every social justice issue (you don’t), singing while trying to hold back my own tears at gun violence vigils for grieving families, wanting to find the most effective way to inspire someone at a rally, hoping people show up to the fundraiser so you can actually raise funds — it comes with its own pressures. The work is incredibly meaningful, not only to me but to the people who are moved and supported through my contribution - and that is what I want sharing my art to be about.

Eze: I always say an artist’s job is to articulate the human experience. There are so many ways to infuse what’s actually happening around us to help people understand how to make change or grow.

Eze performing in Baltimore.

What would you say to someone who hasn’t decided if they’re going to vote yet?

Tina: First I’d ask them why. It’s important to listen so you know which angle to take when trying to explain the importance of voting. Many people think it’s all about the Presidential election - but it’s so much more. The ballots are filled with local, close to home decisions to weigh in on. I’d ask them to examine their privilege - maybe they don’t feel like it will make a difference to them directly.. but what about their friends, family, their community members, etc. Some people don’t believe in the two party system (which is a valid argument) but that is the system we currently have and the future potential for a better version of democracy is at stake. Registering to vote and *actually* voting is EASY! There’s really no excuse - especially now. It’s a responsibility that our ancestors fought long and hard for. We need every singular vote to add up to that winning number… and not contributing your one vote could result in real life devastating losses for everyone. It’s a chain reaction… set the example!

Eze: I would say think about all of the things you benefit from today because people turned out to vote. Whether we like it or not, politics influence every aspect of our lives. You can choose to participate or you can choose to let others make the decisions for you. Either way, you still are living with the consequences.

What’s your Get-Out-The-Vote power anthem?

Tina: I wrote a song called “America the Beautiful” back in 2018 about the daunting truths of our current apocalyptic-like society, not knowing how much more was coming around the corner. There is an element of brutal honesty and cynicism in the song that I think people both relate to and feel uncomfortable with - so I sing it in most of my political and socially conscious sets. I really dig super peppy uplifting VOTE songs too - but I tend to think that the people who need the extra push to vote are typically the cynics, so I try to get them on board!

Eze: I have two: Wake Up Everybody, by Harold Melvin, and The Bluenotes Lil Baby, by The Bigger Picture.

If you're interested in learning more, watch the recording of our In Session with these panelists here.

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