For Earth Month, we were thrilled to chat with Jasmine Graham (photographer, author and program committee member of DWEJ’s upcoming Awareness and Advocacy Through Art initiative) who uses her camera to bring into focus the voices and issues of Detroiters.

Q: What is Stills to Story?

Stills to Story is the brand that was created to combine all of the things that I love so much. Although I was trained and earned my degree in broadcast journalism, I am an artist at heart. In college, I was taught how to be in front and behind the cameras; telling stories through writing, radio and audiovisual formats. Stills to Story is the manifestation of my gift to use the medium of still photography to fuel the stories of Detroiters.

Q: What was the motivation behind your 2021 art showcase, A Love Letter to the Land?

For years, I was cautious in branding myself as an artist. But in 2019, my friend invited me to be a part of a group art showcase. This gave me the boost that I needed because I already knew that I was skilled in tackling a challenge. I also felt like this invitation was a nudge from God affirming that art was indeed my path.    

Then in 2020, the blackout occurred. I remember being in the shower when a story was literally downloaded into my spirit. This story, which later became my first book (The Blackout Novella) and first solo photo installation, describes the dilemma that a young Black man named Genesis faces after being murdered by the police. 

Looking back, the showcase that I participated in in 2019 was geared towards Black women. In 2020, my work was addressed to Black men. In 2021, I was inspired to once again reflect on the signs of the times.

During the pandemic, the world slowed down. This limited movement and interference by people allowed the land to finally rest and be refreshed. Although the world is opening back up, we still have a duty to protect and care for the world that we live in. Every action counts in preventing the continued degradation of the planet. This is true people power; the recognition that we are all one and mutually responsible for each other.

Q: What role does art play in environmental justice?

As a Black person and a Detroiter, I believe that anything we do is a political statement. Most art forms, particularly music genres like blues, jazz and hip hop, are rooted in the trials that Black folks have and continue to endure in this country. When it comes to environmental justice, Detroit as the Motor City was built on the automobile industry and the toxic output of factories. 

Art is one of the last mediums we can truly express ourselves and share our concerns with others. There are no rules. If we are not talking about what plagues us, then who will? Those that hear our message, will hear it. If they don’t, it wasn’t meant for them anyway.

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