Brittany Harris is a visual artist who uses her art to raise awareness of social justice issues. As a social justice advocate, she has worked within an international non-profit where she supported advocacy programs designed to end poverty and further justice reform. Her artwork goes beyond the canvas and onto the screen as she uses her voice to speak out against societal issues and encourages others to use their gifts to change the world.
Q: Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
A: That’s so hard because I don’t have any idols — and most people have idols — but I would say who really inspired me was not someone necessarily in this social justice realm, but actually a YouTuber. Her name is Shameless Maya. She came out with her first video of herself living life shamelessly in 2013, which is how her brand got started.
The project, which lasted 100 days, was to just shamelessly be herself online by posting on social media more often. For those days, she posted on Instagram, kept making videos and just kind of put herself out there and her brand took off from that. As for me, it’s really inspired me to live my life shamelessly and not be afraid of my voice or to not be afraid to share my gifts, thoughts and beliefs with the world. It’s also inspired me to not let other people influence how I share myself with the world. When I think about someone who has inspired me as a leader, I think of her because she believed in herself. A lot of people may not see her, but I feel like she really inspired me to have a voice and stand up for what I believe in.
How do you encourage social justice through creativity?
A lot of my work in social justice is focused around black people, especially black women and the issues that black women go through. I use creativity to be a social justice advocate through my art. I can say that when it comes to social justice, I’m not traditional—going to marches or doing speaking engagements and things like that. I’m a creative person, but I also care about people and also care about my community. So, I decided that through all of the work that I do, I’m going to use my creative skills to speak out on issues I care about.
You know, I’m not just an artist and I’m not just an activist. I think we all have a duty to use our gifts to impact the world. With everything, I always try to make it meaningful. I don’t ever try to make something for the sake of creating it, but because it’s something that’s going to inspire people. I encourage people to think deeply about issues and have a better understanding of some of the things going on in the world and some of the issues we need to pay more attention to.
In being a social justice advocate, what challenges have you had to overcome?
I would say remaining aware of issues. Especially when you’re creative, it’s easy to get caught up in the creative stuff. My creativity has opened the doors for me and connected me with all these cool brands, but it’s easy to continue in that direction and to forget about the important issues. A challenge has been just staying aware of the needs of people and aware of things that are going on in our society. It’s a conscious thing, because this life can pull you away from things that matter, especially when it becomes overwhelming or it becomes depressing. You just want to focus on other stuff.
This interview has been edited for clarity.