Afrodiasporic Art + Activism
An Atlanta native, Ré Phillips is an artist, academic, activist and globalcreator in every sense.
Ré got the international travel bug when she studied abroad in China as an undergrad at Stanford University, where she majored in African Studies, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. Since then, she has done everything from work with women and children in New Delhi’s slum communities to lead a workshop at Beirut Design Week to spend time living among African communities in Guangzhou as a Fulbrighter.
She laughs, “I didn’t travel abroad until I was 18 years old. My parents were like, “You’re not allowed to date, travel abroad …do anything until you go to college. I was twelve years old making powerpoints to convince them about why I should be allowed to travel, study language, or to at least host an exchange student. So when I got my first chance to go abroad, I was really excited. My travels were always about art, activism or to do something academic. From the start, I wanted to go out in the world but with a lot of intention.”
Ré’s life shows the incredible power of art and activism converging globally.
Her prize winning undergraduate honors thesis, Dialectical Praxis of Afro Asia: The Stakes of Transnational Black and Red Geopolitics, researched the history of political and artistic encounters between China and African-Americans. In the spring of 2007, she traveled to China to perform in Dr. Clayborne Carson’s “Passages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” alongside members of the National Theater Company of China, marking the first time in history that African-Americans and Chinese artists shared a stage in China. Ré toured Jerusalem and the West Bank with Al-Hakawati, the Palestinian National Theater with the same production four years later.
At the same time, she was a member of Talisman Acapella and also travelled to South Africa on a musical tour with the singing group, which was her first experience promoting social and cultural unity in the motherland. In 2009, she traveled to Kampala, Uganda to co-create a performance piece with Makerere University students on otherness and transnational diasporic identity, which was performed at the National Theater of Uganda.
In 2010-2011, she co-facilitated an art for social change workshops across rural India, and addressed systemic social challenges affecting rural Indian communities, such as water sanitation, gender equity, and poverty. In December 2015, she organized and facilitated an arts for social change short course for young women in Hargeisa and Abaarso, Somaliland, in an effort to create a safe space for addressing social issues affecting the women and girls in the community. These powerful experiences have led her to believe that art has an intangible ability to affect change, and so she created her own non-profit organization that utilizes the power of creativity to provide capacity building and leadership training for young women across the African continent and its diasporas. Ré has received many prizes and awards for her peace work and art work, including the Rare Rising Stars UK award, the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, and the Call to Conscience Award. She was recently named a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and was also the proud designer of the British African Poetry Prize, which seeks to cultivate the next generation of African poets both on the continent and abroad.
Ré has worked in communities across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Her passion for politics, art, and the intersectionality of the two is a passion that continues to grow.
She’s had a wealth of global opportunities and a CV of enviable credentials from top global institutions- Stanford to Oxford to the United Nations to the World Economic Forum. Ré says she has had to sacrifice significantly on her career trajectory.
“I was part of a well-known music group, worked with three different music labels and music industry hot shots, and could have been an established artist with that circuit back in U.S. But I wanted to be out in the world, to be able to participate in policy conversations about social change, to make a difference and do something meaningful in regards to equity and poverty. I took the the American India Foundation Clinton Fellowship to be able to go to India for a year instead of continuing to build upon the momentum of my artistic career in California. Even if I look at it long term, I personally took several shorter term international opportunities like the American India Clinton Fellowship, the Fulbright Fellowship and attending Oxford University in the UK, rather staying in one job in one country. It allowed me to see many countries, but it was an informed sacrifice. You have to want it bad enough to make that sacrifice.”
She concludes, “For anyone looking to live a global life, my advice is that you’ve got to remain hungry, stay focused, and ensure that your desire to be a globalcreator outweighs the sacrifices you will have to make to get there.”