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What Is Activism? Carl Hancock Rux Talks With Lara Downes

Carl Hancock Rux is a poet who knows something about baptism by water and trial by fire. He's someone who keeps on keeping on. You can hear it in "The Baptism," a poem he wrote in tribute to two great civil rights activists, John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. In this year of reckoning about race in America, Carl's poem acknowledges and accepts the bottomless depth of our legacy of keeping on:

This is the nature of baptism. A thank you of water in company with the web of Reason, entangled to it. Nothing can be wasted. Artistic, cultural and personal relationships to urbanity and regenerative architecture fosters intellectual, human, and financial capital in restoring and replenishing resources of a historical past, a sustainable present and a wellspring of future opportunities. ... Almost clear now. Keep on! Keep on!

There are some people you're just aware of. You might have never met them, but the vibrations of their work touch your own in a six-degrees-of-separation matrix of mutual mission and message. That's how it was with Carl and me. But now I wanted to reach out across our web of mutual friends and parallel movements, to talk about how it feels to do the work of this time, and what to call it.

This is a conversation about imagining change and then being bold enough to give voice to your vision — in words, in music, in intention. Call it courage. Call it activism if you want. Call it, as Carl's mother always did, "being proactive." We just call it doing your work, living your life — and keeping on.

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Lara Downes is among the foremost American pianists of her generation, a trailblazer both on and off the stage, whose musical roadmap seeks inspiration from the legacies of history, family and collective memory. As a chart-topping recording artist, a powerfully charismatic performer, a curator and tastemaker, Downes is recognized as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene.
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