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Creative Green New Deal campaign makes a splash with art competition

When we talk about a “Green New Deal” it’s easy to forget that whatever shape and form it will take on will not only be determined by what happens in the halls of Congress, but by the level of engagement and buy-in from communities across the nation, especially those that have traditionally — including during the New Deal — been left out of the equation. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and one of the most diverse cities in the nation, Be The Green is a creative grassroots campaign launched last year to communicate the urgency, purpose, and possibility of the Green New Deal to all communities, especially those not usually associated with environmental leadership.

Team Be The Green

Founded by a group of local activists, organizers, and artists aiming to facilitate a cultural shift in consciousness, Be The Green has been building power and sparking creativity from the ground up, reaching out to their local schools and communities to envision how the Green New Deal might affect and benefit them, and connecting them with other communities across the country to inspire and learn from each other. These exchanges can range from comparing notes about how historic oppression manifests in vulnerable frontline communities today to skill shares on how to make an art build of a bullet train.

A center piece of Be The Green’s work are their art competitions, with the current one open for submission through July 29th, 2020. Designed for entrants to create a work of art in any medium to communicate part or all of the Green New Deal, the idea behind it is that for the kind of democracy in planning, implementation, and control by local communities called for in the GND resolution to becomes a reality, its vision and goals must first be clearly imagined, understood, and shared by the grassroots. And honoring the fact that at its core the Green New Deal is about putting people to work for fair compensation, Be The Green is offering $1,000 cash prizes for each category. As Harry Hopkins, architect of the original New Deal was fond of saying, “I don’t know why I still hang on to the idea that unemployed artists get just as hungry as anybody else.”

So, if you’re an artist or thinking of becoming one, head on over to the guidelines right now.

If you’d like to find out more about Be The Green, read on for an interview with one of Be The Green’s amazing organizers, Misty Novitch.

Why is it important to involve everyday people in communities across the country in embracing and organizing around the Green New Deal?

We have 10 years to address global warming, which means 10 years to change everything. As Greta says, “to change everything, we need everyone.”

There is increasing discussion of the problem of climate change, with most democratic voters saying climate is their #1 priority issue, and plenty of vague calls for “climate action.” But to have a chance to save ourselves, we need to be clear on exactly what we want so we can focus on reaching our goals. A compelling shared vision like the Green New Deal helps keep our “eyes on the prize” so we are better able to achieve it the transformative change we need.

We cannot rely on our mainstream media to communicate the content of the Green New Deal, since they tend to favor a “tactical framing” approach to coverage, which focuses on the politics over the substance of an issue. Tactical framing makes people measurably more cynical and less likely to remember basic information about a policy, which makes it unlikely everyday people will be able to imagine the world a policy platform like the Green New Deal envisions or to even try to build it, even if they support it, which most people do.

It’s common wisdom that we cannot rely on even the most progressive politicians to save us, as comforting as it is to hope for that savior, and our media tends to focus primarily on the politics of elections instead of the substance of mass movements. Throughout history, it has always been popular movements that have changed things for the better, and that’s no different today.

As Naomi Klein highlights in her book “On Fire,” popular movements are scientifically the only unknown variable in the equation of whether or not our species will evolve in time to save our world.

The diversity of voices that makes up the collective wisdom is what is so powerful about our group, movement, country, and world.

Misty Novitch

What is Be The Green doing specifically to mobilize more people to become creative Green New Deal communicators, educators, and movement builders?

Be the Green is organizing a grassroots creative media campaign to communicate the Green New Deal to all communities. We believe know that mass movements are our best hope to be able to change things in time, and we believe in the wisdom and power of the people.

We are calling on all artists – from kids to professionals – to learn about the Green New Deal and creatively communicate its urgency, purpose, and possibility to all communities so that we can clearly imagine a shared vision to facilitate a rapid culture shift.

We are actively reaching out to many individuals, groups, and working to build coalition around a grassroots creative art campaign to make the Green New Deal come alive. Unlike in the New Deal, we do not yet have access to massive federal funding to pay artists to communicate this Green New Deal, so we are working to organize a grassroots version of that effort.

Which media do you see as the most effective in creatively communicating what the Green New Deal is, why it matters, and how we can make it happen?

We believe we need every kind of popular media because different people and communities have different media that impacts them and different parts of the Green New Deal framework that resonate more strongly. Be the Green is calling for any and all forms of creative art and popular culture that communicate the urgency, purpose, and possibility of the Green New Deal. I personally am most excited to see Green New Deal songs, games, graphic novels and commercials, but we want to leave it open because we trust the masses to create their own impactful media. The diversity of voices that makes up the collective wisdom is what is so powerful about our group, movement, country, and world.

Screenshot_2020-05-05 bethegreen • Instagram photos and videos
Be the Green being cute foliage at the Little Five Points Atlanta Halloween parade.
artist focus group discussion on International Women’s Day to launch the People’s #GreenNewDeal art competition
Artist focus group discussion on International Women’s Day to launch the People’s #GreenNewDeal art competition.

How can Green New Deal advocates best help Be The Green grow its network and impact?

We are asking people to learn, create, share, donate, and build coalition:

1. LEARN about the Green New Deal
We’re asking people to read the policy itself (since it only takes 10-15 minutes to read aloud), or check out our website to read our policy breakdown, watch videos or read articles, etc. 
We know if people really understand the Green New Deal as a vision, and each of us can imagine it, we can be inspired and able to educate others as a collective society-wide goal.

2. CREATE artistic cultural expression of the Green New Deal
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We’re asking people to use to make the Green New Deal come alive through art for a culture shift. We’re calling for songs, games, apps, graphics, social media, commercials, novels, webseries, spoken word, sermons, etc that communicate what the GND is, what it would look like, why it matters, how we can make it happen, and what the first step is for one person.

3. SHARE about the Green New Deal and Be the Green’s campaign
We’re asking people to express the content of the green New Deal in their own words to their own communities, networks, and contexts. People listen to the people in their lives, and personal relationships are the cornerstone of change. Your passion will move your folks. We’re also asking people to share our campaign with one or more people and the calls to action we have for them.

4. DONATE to the Be the Green prize fund
We’re asking people to donate to our prize fund to incentivize potential participating artists to create art that communicates aspects of the GND to their own communities. We want to be able to promote our campaign so that everyone hears about it, and reward people’s labor, which they often do for free, with money to honor artists for their contribution to this movement.

5. BUILD coalition for a creative campaign for the Green New Deal
We’re asking all individuals, groups, and communities to join with us in coalition to collectively shape, promote and reward a grassroots creative campaign to communicate the urgency, purpose, and possibility of the Green New deal. We know many hands make light work and, as Greta said, “to change everything, we need everyone.”

If there were one piece of art you could create right now with the snap of the finger, what would it be?

Songs, games/apps, and a web-series would be my choices, but Be the Green encourages all forms of media that different people deem appropriate to communicating the Green New Deal!

Anything else you’d like to share with the world?

We believe in the collective wisdom and power of the people.

We are on the verge of a cultural shift in consciousness that just might be the evolution humanity needs in this crucial moment.

With a shared vision of the world we want – so well articulated in the GND at the highest levels of government in the most powerful country on Earth and the majority supporting the policies – we just might be able to save ourselves in the short window of time we have and facilitate a just transition toward the world we’ve been striving for throughout human history. Now is the time.

Thank you so much for amplifying the vision. Let’s get to work!

Photos and graphics courtesy Be The Green.