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Get Inspired, Get [Socially] Active

Social change has become a rather hot topic in many of my classes over these last few years. Marches, protests, campaigns, and charismatic leaders are often the components of social change immediately brought up within discussion. While it is crucial to establish the relevance of social change in today’s society through conversation, the most major aspect of social change is action. Changes to widely accepted societal “norms”, governments, or generally implemented systems do not magically happen overnight. It is precisely those aforementioned protests, marches, and the like that bring about the change the public wishes to see.

Talking about social change is one thing. It’s easy for us to say what we would do if we were social activists. But what would it take to convince you to actually take part in a social movement? Art has a tendency to inspire people in countless ways, and many artists use this to their advantage. Music, poems, paintings, sculptures, novels, and even simple posters can evoke strong feelings within individuals and lead them to take action.

For me, music heavily influences my life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not have a single ounce of musical talent in my body. I cannot sing, dance, or play any instruments. However, it’s rare that I will go a day without listening to music. Whether I’m in the car or in the shower, cooking or doing homework, selling apparel at my job or getting ready: I’m always listening to some type of music. It makes sense, then, that music is the very art form that would motivate me to become an active participant in social change.

There is a Korean pop group that I adore with my whole heart that goes by the name ATEEZ. ATEEZ has eight members — all extremely talented, kind, hard-working, dedicated, gorgeous young men who deserve the entire world (okay, I’m getting too carried away now, I know). Unfortunately, I’m not here to simply convince you to “stan ATEEZ”, although it couldn’t hurt to give them a try. No, no — I’m here to tell you about the leader of ATEEZ, Kim Hongjoong, and his cover song that has truly pushed me to be more active in my immediate community as well as in my country in general. On May 20th of this year (2020), the official ATEEZ YouTube channel posted a video of Hongjoong singing (and rapping) in a cover of “Black or White”, originally performed by Michael Jackson. Not even a week later, George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, and three days after that, on May 28th, protestors fled to the streets of NYC, and my timeline on nearly every social media platform I utilize was filled with videos and pictures of the brave people fighting for social justice in the streets of my home state and across the entire country.

Hongjoong’s Performance of Black or White:

Now, I realize that Hongjoong did not make this cover because of the Black Lives Matter movement. The timing was rather uncanny if you ask me, though. “Black or White” is a song of equality. Michael Jackson used this song to convey that regardless of skin color or background, all humans should be treated equally and should have equal rights. The fact that Hongjoong chose to cover such a popular song with so strong of a message insinuates that he feels the same, though I cannot speak for him. The release of this cover during such a dark and sorrowful time is perhaps the work of higher powers that be, but it resonated deeply with me. This moving song, though not blatantly a call to action in social change, reminded me that equality isn’t just something that I should speak in support of — I have to act in support of equality as well.

On June 4th, just a few weeks after the publishing of Hongjoong’s cover and the beginning of the protests, the official ATEEZ Twitter account posted a tweet in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

ATEEZ’ Tweet in Support of BLM:

This tweet just reaffirmed what I had already been thinking — the Black Lives Matter movement was not only metaphorically catching fire rapidly in the United States, but it’s impact was (and still is) global. I knew I had to convert my thoughts of a better, just, and peaceful world into actions that would accomplish just that. Since this song cover was released, I have made more of an effort to take action, specifically regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Though I have not physically made it to any protests, I have signed petitions seeking justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others who suffer the underserved consequences of an unfair, racist system. I have donated a few times to various non-for-profit organizations designed to support the black community in the United States. I also try to repost informational posts on Instagram or Twitter in hopes that all of us can become even just a little more educated on social injustice and the available resources we have access to that would enable us to combat said injustices. I would eventually like to make it to a protest, as I believe literally standing up for those in need of support is the best way to bring these social changes about.

I would like to personally thank Kim Hongjoong and ATEEZ for using their platform as internationally recognized artists to speak out on such prevalent issues in the United States and to create more awareness of these social justice issues globally. I would also like to encourage anyone reading this to get inspired to become an activist in any way possible. Share that informational article you read with your friends and family. Donate any amount you can spare — no matter how small the amount, it is bound to help someone in some way. Research social movements, and maybe even attend a local protest.

Though I feel this quote may be a tad overused, I feel as though it’s too fitting to exclude:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi