This weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with an artivist. He was captivating, passionate, knowledgeable, helpful and dedicated. During our 40 minute conversation he dropped so much knowledge on me, I felt I had taken a crash course on the modern civil rights movement that included historical and political facts sprinkled in for fun. He proudly announced that his home town of Paterson, NJ was a stop in the Underground Railroad and that it was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Not only was I thankful to have learned from him, but I was motivated and inspired by the energy and dedication Jaquair Gillette puts into his words when discussing causes that mean the most to him. He has a way of communicating the heart of issues he is focused on that makes you understand their urgency and want to help.
The Issues that Matter to Jaquair Gillette
Where can I begin? It is hard to narrow it down because Gillette is well versed in almost every social ill that is occurring in our modern society. From Walmart’s methods of double dipping from the government purse, to the gentrification of New Jersey, socialism for the rich, individualism for the non-rich, equal justice, economic inclusion and assassination politics, he is basically a walking encyclopedia of social justice knowledge.
Not only is he aware of the issues, but he can point you in the direction of an organization that works to fix the issues he is concerned about. He doesn’t just talk. In the past he has been involved in petitioning for various causes, donating to causes and participating in the marches and rallies from New York to, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. He stays involved in the issues through both his art and the work he does his community.
Through our conversation, Gillette discussed organizations that are involved with equal justice and economic inclusion.
Equal Justice organizations:
- Black Lives Matter
- Equal Justice Initiative
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- SURJ – Showing up for Racial Justice
- Poor People’s Campaign
- Environmental Defense Fund
Economic Inclusion organizations/activities:
- Democracy Collaborative (Community wealth building)
- Community garden work
- Community farms
- Food justice awareness
- Black Family Land Trust
- The Black Business School
- Tulsa Real Estate Fund
One of the ways that Gillette advocate for these causes is through an organization he founded with two friends called, “The R.E.B.E.L. Experience.”
What is The R.E.B.E.L. Experience?
As described on their Facebook page,”The R.E.B.E.L. Experience as being created to produce creative content that not only entertains, but inspires, culturally and morally educates, and elevates the beauty and truth of the human experience and its possibilities through film, television, theatre, new media, art and music.” R.E.B.E.L. is an acronym for Reach Everyone by Expressing Life. And they live up to their name.
One look through their Facebook profile and YouTube page, it is clear they like to keep their finger on the pulse of conscious art of the local, grassroots variety. They advocate for the arts, perform at venues in the city and in New Jersey, showcase different types of art such as graffiti and the spoken word and so much more.
The organization was founded in 2012 with three founders Jaquair Gillette, Akiba Rhodes and Sean English. The three founders are surrounded by a family of individuals who make up the crew – operating the cameras, sound and lighting equipment. Since its foundation they have worked to produce enlightening content that uplifts local individuals and projects a message of hope and guidance for those wishing to get involved in the various causes that are showcased in R.E.B.E.L.’s films.
They have a talk series called “The Soapbox” that delves into social issues and concepts that relate to artists defining who they are and the importance of their craft, individual spoken word pieces advocating positive life choices, local art shows and activities of local artists. In many ways the organization’s YouTube page is like looking through a window into the world of elevated, conscious, uplifting artistry.
“3rd & 4th Chapters”
R.E.B.E.L.’s latest work “3rd & 4th Chapters” was inspired by the plan to obtain civil rights and full immersion into American society for black Americans as outlined by the late Corretta Scott King. Chapters 1 and 2 of the plan have already been accomplished. Chapter 1 is ending slavery and Chapter 2 is ending the Jim Crow laws of the South. Chapter 3 – Equal Justice and Chapter 4 – Economic Inclusion are still outstanding.
The short film follows a character who grew up in a rough area, but was able to achieve success. He works hard to bring positive change to his old neighborhood, yet faces unforeseen obstacles from unlikely places. Ultimately, life changing choices must be made by unsuspecting people that will either help or hinder the cause. The film will have you guessing until the end what will happen.
“3rd and 4th Chapters” is a powerful reminder that even though so much time has passed since Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 were outlined by Mrs. King, fulfilling those chapters have not and will not be a straight line from point A to point B. There will be obstacles, some from outside a community and some inside the community. However, change is inevitable as long as people stay dedicated to the cause.
Gillette’s hope when making this film is to bring awareness to the challenges that face people who have the desire to bring positive change to under-served communities; the goal is also to motivate people to get involved with helping to fulfill the remaining chapters as outlined by Mrs. King. There is so much work to be done and every little bit helps.
What is next for The R.E.B.E.L. Experience?
With their latest project only having dropped less than two weeks ago, the group has several projects already in the works.
Several projects are in the works. One, a short film entitled 21 Eagles, which is a piece that coincides as one of several prequel pieces to a later feature heist film entitled Jersey Auto. The feature will film showcase the cultural institutions and characteristics that make the state unique while addressing and economic issue that effects small businesses and consumers alike. 21 Eagles is inspired by true events and the effects of gentrification of the state. The film will touch upon the “Home Rule” in New Jersey that has allowed for the creation of a staggering number of municipalities that all require state resources to keep afloat.
What is Jaquair Gillette up to Next?
Jaquair will continuously be working to create and connect with people who create things that matter. He has a spoken word performance coming up at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe on April 18, 2020. He also will be acting in a short 5 episode web series titled, “The American Jungle.” A great way to keep up with him is to follow his Facebook page.
And last but not least, he would like to give a shout out to the Sophisticated Sisters of Omega Phi Chi!
Thank you, Ja. We appreciate it. 😉