Arts for Health Equity and Social Justice: A New IAM Lab Series

Art has always been a reflection of and response to the world around us. It’s also a way of envisioning what is possible and what is just.

We have seen art-making on the front lines of the current uprising, with people around the world using art to call out racism, end police brutality and fight social injustice. Through spoken word, murals and signs, song and dance, people are expressing their feelings, beliefs and calls for change.

As a lab focused on the intersection of the arts with health and wellbeing, we have been moved and stirred to action by the art created in response to long-standing injustices faced by Black communities.

Black creativity emerges from long lines of innovative responses to the death and violence that plague our communities.

~ The Trayvon Generation by Elizabeth Alexander

Racism is a public health threat that we must individually and collectively take dedicated steps to eradicate now.

Today, in the wake of so much pain and beauty surfacing through art, we are compelled to ask: What is the role of art in this movement? How can art in its many forms support systemic changes that explicitly value Black lives? How is art helping individuals manage their mental and physical health at this time? How is it expressing and enriching cultural identity, social cohesion, and community?

The arts can not only reveal, illustrate, and name racism; they can also be a tactic for building and organizing social change movements aimed at achieving health equity.

~ Creating Healthy Communities Through Cross-sector Collaboration (University of Florida Center for Medicine, ArtPlace America)

With this post, we are launching an ongoing series about the role of arts in health equity and racial justice. We will hear from Black writers, artists, scholars, scientists and other experts in these fields and spotlight leaders who incorporate the arts as a tool for healing, resistance and justice.

For far too long, people across the globe have suffered due to the direct effects of colonialism, patriarchy, state violence, and so much more, but it is our art and creativity that have helped us to communicate our collective rage. Art has helped us build bridges intergenerational so that we do not feel alone — and so we can make sure that we do not forget our own history.

~ Kimberly Drew, author of “This Is What I Know about Art” (Teen Vogue)

To kick off this conversation, we are adopting our internal mantra of Listen. Learn. Act.

We choose to Look & Listen—to deeply engage with the art emerging in this historical moment—so that we can Learn and then take meaningful Action. In keeping with this approach, we are sharing art here today—songs, signs, dancing, murals, poetry and more—and urging readers to join us in spending time with it, learning from it and taking meaningful action in response.

Art is rich knowledge that can and must inform our lives, our systems and our humanity. What we learn from the arts has implications for our policies, our practices, and our shared vision for a just and equitable society—the realization of which will demand our sustained action.

“Art can touch the emotional core of what moves us toward social justice in ways that a strategy meeting or news or political analysis can’t. Murals, graffiti and paintings are a chance for communities to come together and speak their mind or represent themselves in public space.”

~ Shirien Damra, graphic designer, #JusticeforGeorge (CNN)

Please Look & Listen with us. Send us links to the art that is teaching you, healing you, or moving you to act. And stay tuned as we continue to amplify the value of the arts in social justice.

In solidarity,


The IAM Lab Team

Look and Listen Here






Sky Media




Paintings & Drawings


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Imagine everything that isn’t videotaped. Imagine all the unsettling and ongoing transgressions on our humanity, and of course much worse. I had to pause several times while making this, and come back to it. It’s unfortunate that in America people have to pretend like everything is okay. Everything is not okay. My feelings of frustration and hurt as a black person living in America have been one of the most profound experiences of my life. James Baldwin wrote about being black, that “you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.” What would it feel like to not be at war with your idea of me? Freedom. #justiceforgeorgefloyd #icantbreathe

A post shared by LÁOLÚ 🇳🇬 (@laolunyc) on


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A bit scrappy but felt like painting this right now… Edit: My painting of what happened in Minneapolis has garnered a lot of attention in the past few days. I’ve never been too political but since this event affected me so deeply I felt I had to do something. I feel the loudest voice I have as an individual and as an artist is to express my message through art. All I intended to make was art that would help people convey how they felt but couldn’t express into words. I could’ve just stayed silent and avoided all this controversy but I felt it was worth the risk. To be honest, it was scary to see how popular it was getting because I knew people would call into question the integrity of my character and my motives, and if they were genuine. The amount of positivity and hope I hear being generated from this far outweigh the negativity. Many people are sharing the image and using it as a platform so their voices can be heard and it’s incredibly humbling for me as an artist. I’m just a dude with a wacom tablet. Finally, If you found me through the painting I urge you to donate to these funds: Peace and Love ✌️ A. #georgefloyd #art #painting

A post shared by Andrew Dat Tran (@doctaword) on

More paintings & drawings: ‘The World is on Fire:’ Artists Respond to the Protests (NYTimes)



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In the past 24 hours, it’s come to media attention that Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was killed by police. At almost the exact same age, both #AhmaudArbery and Breonna were killed by senseless anti-black violence within a few weeks span. In the middle of the night on March 13 in Louisville, KY, two police officers and one sergeant entered the wrong home without knocking or announcing themselves. They claim they were executing a search warrant for a suspected drug dealer, but this person did not live at Breonna’s address and had actually already been arrested. Breonna’s boyfriend fired a shot when he thought people were trying to break in. The police then fired 20 shots, 8 of which hit and killed Breonna. This is angering and heartbreaking. Breonna selflessly saved many lives as an EMT, only to have hers taken away so senselessly by police violence. May Breonna get justice somehow. Rest in Power, queen. Say her name. #JusticeforBreonna #JusticeforBre #BreonnaTaylor #blacklivesmatter #blm #justiceforbreonnataylor #firstresponders

A post shared by shirien (@shirien.creates) on



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*SENSITIVE MEDIA**** . Art by me 💔 #georgefloyd #georgefloyd💔 #justiceforgeorgefloyd . Quote below by: @kp4equality ❤️ . “During this crazy pandemic we lost another black body, but not from miss Rona. 46- year-old, George Floyd’s life was taken by a racist organization that has historically controlled black bodies by using lethal force. This makes Floyd, yet, another victim of police brutality. A police officer kneeled on a Floyd’s neck for 5 minutes, while Floyd was begging for help. Video footage circulating around social media, documented the public lynching of a black body condoned by the Minneapolis police department. George Floyd’s life mattered. BLACK LIVES MATTER. If you are a true ally or accomplice to black people, say it now; “Black Lives Matter”.” – @kp4equality

A post shared by Mahala Preudhomme Artist (NC📍) (@preudhommeart) on


Learn more about this Tiny Desk concert



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A week ago, the D.C.’s Mayor Bowser @mayor_bowser had the words Black Lives Matter painted on 16th street in front of the White House. She said her hope is that we can all speak up and protect each other. I wanted to share my hope for the future. At 5:30am while the streets were still empty, my parents and I went down to Black Lives Matter Plaza to record this video. I decided to skate to one of my favorite songs, “Rise Up” by Andra Day @andradaymusic . I skated to the song based on what I was feeling. . Thanks to Vernon Davis @thedavisworldtour for lending your camera and talents. . . #figureskatersforfreedom #figureskatersforjustice #blacklivesmatter #blm #riseuptogether #positivevibes #inspire #georgefloyd #justiceforgeorgefloyd #blackgirlmagic #breonnataylor #ahmaudarbery #justiceforahmaud #endracism #figureskating #figureskater #figureskate #figureskater #figureskaters #figureskatinglife #picskates #inline #inlineskating #inlineskate #inlineskater #rollerblading #rollerskating #inlineskates #amplifymelanatedskaters #diversifyice @official_picskate #picskates . . .

A post shared by The Skate Kid (@the.skate.kid) on


When our hearts break, WE Dance.Featuring Alvin Ailey American Dance TheaterText written and performed by Hope BoykinMusic: "The Sky Is No Limit" by At the End, NothingVideo by Danica Paulos

Posted by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on Wednesday, June 3, 2020


Poetry & Spoken Word


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A spoken word piece about inclusion at the site where a confederate statue was removed in Louisville, Kentucky.

A post shared by Hannah Drake (@hannahdrake628) on

Posted by Aja-Monet on Monday, June 15, 2020


Lead Image: Janine Robinson / Unsplash

Art Equity IAM Lab Social Justice