The Revolutions Will Not Be Televised by Jessica Epting

Day 16 — Poster posted on February 15, 2023

Jessica Epting

Pronouns: she/her
Located: Washington, D.C.

Tell us about yourself:

I am a 34-year-old graphic designer born and raised in west-central Nebraska, currently creating full-time for the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. When I am not busy designing, I am most likely geeking out over the various stars (whether the Wars, Treks, or otherwise), sampling great food, traveling to exciting places, and making connections.

What is the inspiration behind your poster design?

When I think of the phrase “the revolution will not be televised,” I think of the height of the civil rights movement in America during the 60s and 70s. Not only MLK and “I have a dream” but the People’s Free Food Program, Fred Hamptons’ rainbow coalition, and especially the persistent attacks of our FBI on the movement. All that black revolutionary thought and the incredible history left out of my and most other Americans’ education, entertainment, and media – out of the sources we trust to deliver us the important truths but instead skewed that news in service of the status quo.

Television screens have given way to our phones – online spaces and social media – that have empowered activists and organizers to build community and shine a light on inequalities and injustices. Nevertheless, that same medium has brought us performative allyship, echo chambers, and empty political gestures that seek to appease us without affecting real change. Pretty pictures and policies look good in our feeds, while the most vulnerable among us have their rights stripped for them.

While our phones are effective tools in the fight, real substantive and sustainable change will be won IRL. It will be live: we must embody that change in our bodies before enacting them in our communities and policies.

I endeavored to depict these thoughts in my poster. The phone “going live” in the middle is not showing the whole story of what’s happening on that street. You can see the “Black Lives Matter” painted on the road, but you can’t necessarily see all that surrounds it; all the people fighting to make that statement true. Our screens won’t necessarily give us the whole story, but live action, local government, community building, and actively resisting together just might.

Much like Gil Scott Heron details in his epic poem by the same title, the revolution will not be televised. The revolution will not be streaming, nor trending, will not go viral, be canceled, or apologize via the notes app. The revolution will not ask you to like, subscribe, comment, or ring that bell. The revolution will not be brought to you by today’s sponsor or give you 20% off if you use its code. The revolution will not be retweeted, upvoted, or play well in the algorithm. The revolution will not be televised. The revolution will be live.

Why do you love being creative?

I always enjoyed doing creative things growing up, like sewing, knitted, crocheted, writing poems, or constantly painting murals in my bedroom. My mom often tells a story of me “moving around the same flower” in Paint on our old desktop computer in the middle of the night, planning a design for my bedroom wall. When she found a graphic design program at my local community college, my path was set.

I love that creation allows us to express ourselves. I love being a part of bringing stories, thoughts, and ideas to life. Whether it’s a poster promoting an event, a report explaining vital data, or a book layout that highlights beautiful photography, I enjoy being able to lend my skills to designs that make an impact.

Tell us about your experiences in the design world…

I worked for institutions with almost no black representation for most of my design career. The internet, social media, and other designers helped open up much of the design world to me and gave me the opportunity to follow other black designers and see how they incorporate. I’m so inspired by the beauty and impact I’ve seen from black artists. Growing up in an overwhelmingly white midwest town with few black people, I internalized much of the surrounding anti-blackness that I’ve since had to unpack and unlearn towards loving myself and my blackness fully. Thankfully, I now work and live in more diverse communities and value this newfound sense of belonging.

How can we create a more inclusive design world and ensure that Black people are represented?

Inclusivity will only happen deliberately, with us purposely seeking out black artists and black perspectives. We’ve seen that our algorithms and communities tend to homogenize, and white supremacy has made it so that opportunities favor those these systems were built for. We will have to build communities that not only include black voices but promote and uplift them.

In general… How can we make more equity or equality for us?

While there are countless solutions, I propose we start with connecting black creatives to opportunities. I once applied for a position a few years back where another candidate was eventually selected. Still, I hit it off with the hiring manager, who was impressed by my skillset and referred me later when the initial hire did not work out for them. In short, she put me on. She saw my potential and cared enough to think of me again. That’s one way to start – Us getting to know one another and our work and bringing each other up when we are in positions to do so.

Another designer once told me her personal mission was to “look around any room she was invited into, see who wasn’t present and try to advocate for them.” That’s a dope mission. And I think we can add “and go get them a seat.”

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