RESIST: National Endowment of the Arts

“I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” - James Baldwin

For six days in 1965 riots in LA’s Watts neighborhood raged. A routine police stop escalated into a violent outcry against racism, oppression and police brutality. Afterwards, amid blocks of burned buildings and looted storefronts, Budd Schulberg, a Hollywood screenwriter and novelist, posted a note that read “Creative Writing Class — All interested sign below.”

Slowly writers and poets trickled in, bringing written pieces for Schulberg to discuss, revealing their internal turmoil and underscoring the external struggle. These writers, 13 in all, would make up the founding members of the Watts Writers Workshop. Meeting weekly, writing morphed from a personal art to a tool for social change. These meetings, which went on for 10 years, sought to funnel frustration into art and akin to similar programs we have today, it was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Since its inception in 1965, the NEA has distributed over $5 billion dollars to institutions that provide all peoples in all communities with access to the arts. They fund programs dedicated to documenting cultural history and organizations fighting violence, recidivism, drug use and the like. For 50+ years, the NEA has been tasked with distributing vital funding but as an entity, it is as symbolic as it is functional. The existence of the NEA represents a core belief that providing access to the arts is not just a path for cultural development but an integral aspect for embracing our diversity and eliminating our intolerance.

Our current administration asserts that we can do away with the NEA. And while the President doesn’t have the power to make that final decision, Congress does. Demand your representatives stand in opposition and show your support for arts organizations in your community. - Maureen Post

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