Find out what inspires the work and life of Hank Willis Thomas, one of our 2017 SOAPBOX Honorees for Award for Art in Community:
What is your bio in six words or less?
I am a person.
Who are you are in community with?
How did you first get connected with The Laundromat Project, and what made you decide to become such a great supporter of our work?
I first heard about The Laundromat through Risë Wilson over a decade ago, when it was just sounded like a cool idea. I have had several dear friends do collaborations with The LP and my appreciation for this dedicated work grew through me watching the work of my friend Petrushka Bazin (who was Program Manager of The LP until 2015). My enthusiasm also grew when I learned that Kemi was coming on as Executive Director.
What most inspires your creative practice?
The same thing that compels me to get out of bed: Blind Necessity.
Why do you feel it’s important to engage in explorations of race, visual culture, and perception through art, such as what you’ve done with “Question Bridge: Black Males” (which you collaborated on with 2010 Create Change Artist-in-Residence Bayeté Ross Smith) and “For Freedoms Super PAC”? What is the impact you’ve seen from doing this work?
I feel like everyone should do their best to have the best positive impact they can have on the world that the can. We will never know the depth of the actual impact, but Audre Lorde said it best when she wrote: “It is better to speak, knowing we were never meant to survive.”
Similar to you, many of us in The LP community work collaboratively to use art to amplify voices and advocate for social justice. What have you learned from working with others, and what would be your advice on how to do this successfully?
Patience, Generosity, Humility, Vulnerability, Stupidity, Accountability, Curiosity, Creativity, Endurance, Compassion, Luck, Fortitude, Failure, Joy, and Love.
You’ve also collaborated with and worked alongside your mother, Dr. Deborah Willis. What does it mean to be honored alongside her for SOAPBOX 2017?
LIke mother, like son?
What is your favorite book about NYC?
The “Best of Simple” by Langston Hughes.
Free-association—tell us the first word that comes to mind: