FLOOD Magazine – Art is Action: Patti Smith, Aloe Blacc, Madame Gandhi, Melody Ehsani and more define Political Action

What does taking social, political, or artistic action look like for you? Rain Phoenix reached out to Melody Ehsani, Grouplove, Aloe Blacc, and other creative activists for their input, as well as to learn what causes they’re most passionate about.

Photos from the BLM protests during June ’20. Photographed in Los Angeles, CA.


I find it deeply important to first identify which specific issues in your community matter to you personally. Then I think, “What value can I deliver that might contribute to making that issue better?” As a producer and musician, I think a lot about how we tolerate misogynist lyrics in music, and how I might be able to provide and design the alternative by both making songs that do not contribute to the oppression of anyone, and, more so, how I can DJ and playlist music that celebrates gender liberation. I am most passionate about working with Give a Beat, where I volunteer teaching beat-making and DJing to incarcerated youth in California. 


Photos from the BLM protests during June ’20. Photographed in Los Angeles, CA.


Social action is marching out in the streets at protests like the ones led by Dr. Melina Abdullah and Black Lives Matter, demanding accountability for police brutality. Political action is being on the phone for hours on end with lawmakers like CA Senator Steven Bradford and civil rights organizations to draft and push legislation for justice reform. Artistic action is creating songs like “Black Is Beautiful” and “Madre Tierra” that uplift the movement and speak truth to power. 


As with everything, I think the most important thing is authenticity.  

There are so many causes to be championing in the world, it’s important to find where and how you fit in. For me, from a young age, I’ve always been passionate about fighting for the equality between men and women, and against racism, in America. Depending on what stage of my life we’re looking at, my actions have always been different and have evolved as I have. I also incorporate it into my work. We host a monthly speaker series at our retail location, having beautiful candid talks about important issues. We also create products with messages and donate a percentage of proceeds to organizations we work with and believe in. 

The two that we are most closely tied to at the moment are the Watts Community Core and Summaeverythang community center. During the pandemic they have both been working to supply groceries and fresh farmers market boxes in the Watts community. The greatest joy of mine has been getting to personally know the residents in the communities that we serve. I think that the only way we can make actionable change is by working together and creating new communities. 

This article appears in FLOOD 11: The Action Issue. You can purchase the magazine here. All proceeds benefit NIVA (National Independent Venue Alliance) and their efforts to save independent venues across the United States. #SaveOurStages

By Rain Phoenix for FLOOD Magazine

Photos by The1point8 for FLOOD Magazine

Art by Shepard Fairey for FLOOD Magazine