Music as Civic Engagement: Highlighting BLiNK and Combating Racial Ignorance

In 2016, post- presidential election, most of the nation experienced shock, despair, and
confusion. Campaigns to turn the House and Senate “blue” were strongly emphasized,
women marched internationally, and rallies in support of Muslim US residents took place
in airports. While most of these actions were nationally televised and covered, Collin
Cadet, now a freshman studying Political Science, turned to music as his outlet for
frustration. Under his stage name BLiNK, Collin has not only produced a song and music
video (see link below), but has contributed to the current political climate through his
purpose and lyrics.
     Collin started his project almost exactly a year ago because he felt as if he
needed to express his concerns about Trump’s election in a new way. As a part of his
high school’s Black Lives Matter Club, Collin felt the “power of empathy and potency of
perspective” and viewed it as a way to tackle ignorance, which he claims is why racism
is such a big issue. He emphasizes the issue of implicit bias in the context of racism and
believes that perspective exchange is the key to reducing that aspect of racism. In
regard to why Collin chose music as his form of expression, he notes that “when people
have conversations, they seem to just shut down. It’s only about the winning part and not
listening to the other side and learning. People tend to stick with what they are
comfortable with and not engage the other side. But with art, people can’t argue with
art . You force them to listen, to engage, to understand, without them being able to
actively try and combat what you are trying to convey, its so much more effective with
perspective exchange.” For his single “Woke” Collin never thought that his rapping
hobby would ever reach a larger audience or make people have a new perspective
about racism in America. He explains that, “Originally I just produced this for a school
competition/ performance, like a one-time thing. But when I saw the impact of my
performance on the crowd, who were predominantly white, I realized that there was a
larger chance for me to engage people with them actually listening to me.” After this
performance, Collin was launched into the world of music management, producing, and
gaining a platform. A part of this process was deciding on his stage name, BLiNK. “ my
stage name BLiNK refers to the alternation of perspective. Eyes open versus eyes
closed, ignorance versus consciousness, hinting at my goal of changing perspectives
and engaging my audience who may still be in the field of ignorance.” While Collin was
originally motivated to write music as a result of Trump’s election, he was also compelled
to share and write more music in light of the recent Alpha Phi incident.
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great
stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the
Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice”
This quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is described by Collin as the most accurate
depiction of what he believes is the issue facing GW. He explained that “Since we are
such a progressive space, I think more action and conversation needs to happen instead
of just promoting certain ideas through stickers on our computers; it needs to be an
active and consistent process that actually addresses the problem at hand.” He
expressed that while he sees many people with “Black Lives Matter” stickers or shirts, he wonders what those people are actually doing in order to have their voice heard and
standing up for the issues they claim to care about. In regard to the Alpha Phi snapchat,
Collin believes that people “shouldn’t be afraid to have a conversation about it and keep
talking about it.” The larger issue surrounding the snapchat relates back to feeling
comfortable. Collin writes his music and advertises his song to try and break apart the
idea of “just accepting that racism is a part of the world.” While Collin’s music attempts to
be more preventative and aims to diminish implicit bias in general, he thinks that “ the
incident was able to take place because the girls weren’t uncomfortable enough with the
current political climate and status of other fellow students who have been marginalized
in the past.” Concerning the decision to punish the sorority members, Collin wishes that
GW would take more of a stand in talking about the issue, rather than just attempting to
solve it with mandatory diversity training. However, he does acknowledge the power he
felt through events such as the Race Town Hall and even a retreat he went on through
the Posse Foundation, which is a group of multicultural scholars who are picked every
year to attend a certain university and foster a sense of community and unity. He
acknowledges that “The conversations surrounding the snapchat event reiterated the
feeling of being a minority, but it also helped me unite with students who feel the same
way and embrace ourselves as ‘unapologetically black’” This feeling of unity is what
motivated Collin to talk more about his music and present it at his Posse Retreat and in
his Comparative Politics Lecture. He believes that through his music he can focus on
engaging people as well as bridging the gap between what is true and what is
stigmatized, contributing to emphasizing the truth about society. Since the Alpha Phi
incident, Collin explains that “ I have been much more vocal about my music. Before, I
tried to keep it lowkey, but now I see even more how applicable it is within the GW
community in particular, in facing these issues of ignorance.”
     As a Political Science Major, Collin sees his music as his personal form of civic
engagement. “I think as a citizen of the US I have a responsibility to fight for the values
of liberty, justice, and freedom. I think my music does that because of the issues it
presents and through form as well. Rap is so honest and raw, it's just right in your face
which is how I want these issues to be displayed.” He also goes on to explain that “my
music is definitely politically charged, but it is different from modern politics because it is
not constructed or fake, like how many politicians seem to approach their platforms.”
In conclusion, Collin is attempting to balance his studies along with his music but
trying to bridge those gaps whenever possible. He hopes to inspire others to use their
voices and stand against problematic issues in order to create a better community. In the
next year, he hopes to release a few more singles and then eventually a larger project,
along with merchandise where he will be donating a percentage of proceeds to the
Equal Justice Initiative. You can access his music through iTunes, Spotify, and most
other streaming services, along with his music video through this link:
https://youtu.be/I2BEE0JxARY. For more information about BLiNK and merch, visit
http://witnessrecords.org/

Article by: Erin Cieraszynski