Art as Resistance No. 3

Popular Culture and Social Injustice: A Blessing or a Curse?

On the 30th of November 2019 the event “Art as Resistance: Popular Culture and Social Injustice: A Blessing or a Curse?“ took place at Stichting Herengracht 401. It was organized by Humanity in Action Nederland and H401 and was the third edition of a symposium of Humanity in Action Nederland and H401. The first two events occurred at H401 and Framer Framed in 2017 and dealt with the topic of involving communities and the ethics of cultural organisations. As organizers H401 and Humanity in Action Nederland are both organisations dealing with themes of collective memory and cultural identities.

The day started with a meet & greet where soup as well as coffee and tea were available at 1pm. The next hour was a chance for the speakers and the audience to meet each other and connect in a casual atmosphere.

As speakers some special women joined this edition of the “Art as Resistance” events:

Sharona Babloe is a writer, journalist and performer. After studying Literature at the UvA, she followed Humanity in Action’s summer program in 2017. Then she founded Stories of Womanhood together with Sophia Blyden.

Sophia Blyden is an entrepreneur, word artist and artist. In 2017 she followed Humanity in Action’s summer program, after which she set up Stories of Womanhood together with Sharona Babloe. 

After studying history at the Erasmus university in Rotterdam Aruna Vermeulen co-founded the HipHopHouse in Rotterdam in 2002 and has been its director ever since. The HipHopHuis has set itself the goal of realizing a wide range in the field of education, both in-house and in education. Their offer stands for a complete experience of hip hop culture with knowledge, skills and fellowship.

Angelique Houtveen studied Media, Information & Communication and was hired at BNN University. She then made radio at Radio 6, FunX, NTR and VARA, among others, and won the Marconi Award for “Up-and-coming Talent” in 2013. Currently, she is a radio DJ with hr own show “Angelique” at 3FM, makes podcasts and presents events.

Moderator and the driving force behind this event was Raissa Biekman. She holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Political Science, and a master’s degree in public administration. She specializes in International Relations. After her graduation in 2013, Raissa worked in higher education in Surinam as a lecturer and education coordinator. Today she is the program director at Human in Action Nederland.



The programme started with a video presentation about the cause and actions of Humanity in Action then Sophia kicked off the discussion with a monologue about what it means to live in a world like today where all of us try to do better but can never be perfect.

Raissa called each of the speakers to their place on the stage and the shortly explained the system of the discussion: The discussion would cover three topics: social injustice, feminism and Anti-Semitism. Per topic there would be one controversial statement or question and each of the speakers would have one minute to respond to those before the discussion with each other and the audience started.

While the discussion was focused on the three topics named above it covered a variety of different aspects dealing with artists, popular culture and social media. There was an exchange whether or not artists should use their platform to fight against social injustice or if society cannot demand that from them since their platform is also their business and they risk to lose that by participating in such things.  Another part in the discussion focused more on the so-called “cancel-culture” which can be witnessed on social media right. “Cancel-culture” means not only that popular figures are “cancelled” on social media after making a public mistake regarding things like the topics above but also that these do not get booked for events anymore or lose their spots in important programs for a long time. The question arose if that was the right way to deal with those people or if there was maybe another way if people were willing to acknowledging their mistakes and learn from them.

Overall it was an engaged conversation with many different views and good ideas from both the speakers and the audience. Raissa did a great job moderating the talk always being on top of the time and trying to pick people from all the positions in the audience equally. To sum up the contents of the talk one could use a quote that appeared at the end of the conversation from the audience and really got to the core of all the problems discussed: “Who is being hurt and who is being heard?

Afterwards, the talk between the different people in the audience continued in the bar area of H401 where they could enjoy a drink or another cup of soup. Overall it was an informative and insightful afternoon at H401

These notes were taken by Marie Diekmann, volunteer 2019 Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ASF)