Interview by Glendon Francis
The late great Nina Simone once uttered the words, "An artist's duty is to reflect the times." It is quite remarkable when artists merge their art with what's occurring at the very moment. In such a grim climate, many artists are using their mediums to deconstruct taboo subjects.
Dev Springer is an activist, artist, educator, and poet using all of his talents to magnify and destigmatize the hushed topics in our society. He describes himself as a photographer, journalist, and published author focusing on the beauty of struggle. Experience Dev's revolutionary voice on Twitter by following him @HalfAtlanta and witness his prowess for visual art by visiting his website Urban Soul Atlanta.
I first came in contact with Dev at the series of resistance marches after the brutal execution of Alton Sterling. Though we did not communicate or formally greet each other, I continued to admire his diligence and prolific organizing.
Dev and I sat down in a cozy, Palestinian-owned coffee shop to discuss about our common interests. We first said our greetings then chatted briefly about his family background; being a Jamaican native, migrating to the states and having seven siblings. Dev then described his rather busy 2016. He lamented about the joys of being published in numerous publications, traveling to educate people abroad and most importantly, releasing his first book, "Grayish-Black: poetry from the ribs."
What are your post election sentiments?
Dev: “I recently had a conversation with a comrade and friend about this. In my opinion, much hasn't changed. It feels the same. From the education changes, lack of art funding, Muslim registry—these things have been occurring for some time now. Most are just now seeing what's been subtly happening.”
How long have you been an activist?
Dev: “My first radical moment was in my sophomore year of high school. I attended a religious private school. Two of my friends and myself congregated in a closet, where we shared our disdain for racist peers. We named that closet our Underground Railroad. I've been an activist for over three years.”
Some of Dev’s photos located on his website, urbansoulatlanta.com
What specific instance motivated you to become an activist?
Dev: “Simply growing up in the south. Being queer and Black. Converting to Islam. And essentially, I grew up around radical Black folks. The murder of Trayvon Martin. I remember contacting local organizers, asking them how I could possibly assist them, and since photography was my expertise, I offered photography services. I documented the moments for various organizers.”
Do you have any upcoming projects? And if so, can you briefly speak on them?
Dev: “Yes! I'm currently writing my second book, it's 90% completed, and hope to release it mid year. I also have few speaking engagements at some institutions and organizations that I'm excited about.”
I noticed that you are an admirer of art and you are an artist yourself; what inspires your art?
Dev: “I come from an art background. I love the radical undercurrents beneath art. I always ask myself, ‘how can this art be influenced by politics and how can this art influence politics?’ We must realize that art usually influences politics and our sentiments. I also enjoy mixing mediums together.”
Explain your experience being a visible activist online. How do you deal with trolling and distasteful comments?
Dev: “ Well. I use twitter to educate. I often tweet threads with information I feel like people should know. That's important to me. People online either want to troll you, drag you, commodity or over-consume you. Most of my trolls are corporate liberals. They'll tell you that the information that you're sharing is too radical. Some days I just ignore them and other times I just feel the need to rebut. I feel like I have a responsibility to respond to certain things to show my followers how to combat specific situations.”
I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Dev. His energy was warm and he spoke with absolute conviction. After the interview, Dev and I spoke for a while about what it's like being someone falling on the intersections of various oppressed groups. Being both queer and Black, we share similar experiences. We fall on the intersection of race and sexuality, Blackness and queerness. Many people fall on the intersections of various oppressed demographics and it's vital that our movements remain inclusive.