by Luis Rodriguez
The most valuable lesson learned from this class for me is how important activism is to Natives. Ever since the first Europeans landed on the East coast, Natives have been battling colonialism, continuing with recent protests like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Growing up in school we always learn about the Civil Rights movement as a history lesson and we believe that with the swipe of a pen everyone can live peacefully. But even when events are resolved, the struggles that people go through never really leave and can sometimes be brought back up. I wish I had learned more about the different civil rights movements that when on along with the, in a sense, “traditional” civil rights movement that everyone learns. For our group we focused on Native Activism through the power of the Arts. This can be interpreted as paintings, sculptures, videos, movies, or music. We wanted to emphasize how there are different ways to promote activism.
For my piece, I researched the young activist and rapper Frank Waln. Like many young Native artists, Frank is heavily involved with activism through his music. He focuses on helping kids back home to follow and achieve his dreams. His lyrics are honest and emotional in his raps songs, where he talks “about growing up on a poor reservation, experiencing domestic violence when he was a young boy and hitting rock bottom as a teenager” (xxx). His songs help empower people who have been through the same as situation he was in growing up. Frank also likes to promote education and Native cultural and spiritual learning. Frank has stated that he “wants to bring the opportunities [he’s] had home” and inspire kids on his reservation that they can really achieve their dreams and that there is hope for them (xxx). The article touches on how Native suicide is more than double the national average, and Frank also says that it was a big problem on his rez. Through his music Frank shows messages of triumph by talking about the problems he faces and how he has overcome them. Frank has also won 3 Native American Music awards for many of his singles and one album. One notable single is “Oil 4 Blood” from 2013 which was about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Frank Waln is a very notable rapper who is doing excellent activist work through the power of music.
To re-emphasize, activism can come in many forms like protests, speeches, and even through art. I believe that to reach out to younger generations, the most important kind of people to inspire to see change, we need to use music like Frank Waln’s. He touches on many problems that children on the reservation face each day and promotes many good ideals. Frank is very centered on spirituality and making a difference in people’s lives with his music. I believe if more artists were like Frank Waln, we would be seeing more changes in this world.
Walker, T. (2014). Music as Medicine: Life and Lyrics of Frank Waln. Native Peoples Magazine. http://www.nativepeoples.com/.