The Provocateurs: A Master Series is a creative video series produced by Black Lives Matter Arts+Culture. The series features established artists and creatives from all fields who create within a politically radical framework. Artists give 12-minute TED-style talks about their practice and journey as a provocative Black artist. Our intention is to inspire the creative minds of our movement to create more expansive radical Black art.

The previous event in the series was held at the California African American Museum on November 16, 2017 in conjunction with the exhibition We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85.

Artists from numerous disciplines shared how they use their artistic practice to engage political or social concepts and challenge the establishment:

Shamell Bell

Photo of Shamell BellShamell Bell is a mother, community organizer, and choreographer. An original member of the #blacklivesmatter movement, beginning as a core organizer with Justice 4 Trayvon Martin Los Angeles (J4TMLA)/Black Lives Matter Los Angeles to what she now describes as an Arts & Culture liaison between several organizations such as the BLM Network and Blackout for Human Rights among others. Her work on “street dance activism” situates dance as grassroots political action from her perspectives as a scholar, dancer, and choreographer.

Shamell’s street dance experience includes featured roles in music videos, award shows, and tours with artists such as Will Smith, Christina Aguilera, and Ludacris, and in David LaChapelle’s acclaimed documentary Rize which features Miss Prissy, “The Queen of Krump.”

Building on her senior thesis, an ethnographic exploration of the Ranger$, a well-known dance crew in LA’s Jerkin’ movement, Shamell’s research examines street dance movements in South Central Los Angeles through an ethnographic and performance studies lens. Motivated by her passion for justice, Shamell aims to create an ongoing dialogue between street dance, activist, and academic communities, highlighting the street dancer’s actual presence at academic institutions in the form of dancing, speaking, teaching, and writing. When she is not occupying the police station or leading chants at demonstrations with BLMLA, Shamell can be found playing with her son, Seijani aka “Johnnie,” and even including him in peaceful demonstrations.

Staceyann Chin

Photo of Staceyann ChinStaceyann Chin is the recipient of the 2007 Power of the Voice Award from The Human Rights Campaign, the 2008 Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality, the 2008 Honors from the Lesbian AIDS Project, the 2009 New York State Senate Award, the 2013 American Heritage Award from American Immigration Council, and the 2016 Planned Parenthood Excellence in Media award. Chin is also a 2017 LGBTQ Humanist Award recipient. She unapologetically identifies as Caribbean and Black, Asian and lesbian, woman and resident of New York City.

A proud Jamaican National, Staceyann’s voice was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she spoke candidly about her experiences of growing up on the island and the dire consequences of her coming out there.

Widely known as co-writer and original performer in the Tony Award-winning Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, her poetry has seen the rousing cheers of the Nuyorican Poets’ Café, one-woman shows Off-Broadway, writing-workshops in Sweden, South Africa, and Australia. Chin’s three one-woman shows, HANDS AFIRE, UNSPEAKABLE THINGS, and BORDER/CLASH all opened to rave reviews at the Culture Project in New York City.

Staceyann is the author of the memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, and toured MotherStruck, her critically acclaimed solo theater piece, directed by Cynthia Nixon, and produced by Rosie O’Donnell, chronicling her incredible experiences about motherhood, which opened in New York in December 2015.

Be it on 60 Minutes, in The New York Times, or The Guardian, Staceyann has a reputation for telling it exactly like it is.

Lynnée Denise

Photo of Lynnée DeniseLynnée creates multi dimensional and multi sensory experiences that require audiences to apply critical thinking to how the arts can hold viable solutions to social inequality. Lynnée coined the term “DJ Scholarship” to explain DJ culture as a mix-mode research practice, both performative and subversive in its ability to shape and define social experiences, shifting the public perception of the role of a DJ from being a purveyor of party music to an archivist, cultural worker, and information specialist who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, and provides access to music determined to have long-term value. This shift in perspective manifests most clearly in the presentation of her work at universities, cultural conferences, and performance venues where she creates spaces for public dialogue to occur using music as an entry point to bridge the gap between socially acceptable forms of knowledge and nontraditional ones. DJ Lynnée Denise is a lecturer at California State University’s Pan African Studies Department and the Chicano Studies Department.

Emory Douglas

Photo of Emory DouglasEmory Douglas was born May 24th, 1943 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has been a resident of the San Francisco California Bay Area since 1951. Douglas attended City College of San Francisco where he majored in commercial art. He was politically involved as Revolutionary Artist and then Minister of Culture for the Black Panther party, from February, 1967 until the Early 1980s. Douglas’s art and design concepts were always seen on the front and back pages of the Black Panther Newspaper, reflecting the politics of the Black Panther Party and the concerns of the community. He is an internationally celebrated artist, whose work has been shown in New Zealand, Lebanon, Cuba, many more countries, and all across the United States.

Sarah Jones

Photo of Sarah JonesCalled “a master of the genre” by The New York Times, Sarah Jones is a Tony-winning performer and writer known for her multi-character solo shows including Broadway hit Bridge & Tunnel and Sell/Buy/Date. Sarah has given multiple main-stage “TED Talks,” performed at The White House for President and First Lady Obama, and traveled the world as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador raising awareness on issues including empowerment of women and girls. Sarah’s multimedia projects based on her characters include a podcast with PRI, Playdate with Sarah Jones. Learn more at www.sarahjonesonline.com or at @yesimsarahjones on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Miss Prissy

Photo of Miss PrissyMiss Prissy is called The Queen of Krump.

She was one of the dancers featured in the 2005 film Rize, a documentary about krump dancing. In 2012 she choreographed The Underground, a performance by 12 dancers to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the beginnings of krump, at the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium. Miss Prissy’s film appearances include Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007). Miss Prissy signed with Forster Brothers Entertainment and began recording material for her debut album, In My Own Lane.

Walter Mosley

Photo of Walter MosleyWalter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than fifty critically-acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 25 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. In 2013 he was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame, and he is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, The Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.