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Artists illuminate identity, justice and beauty

By Abeni Hill
Staff writer –

Recording artists tony the scribe and Jessica Manning. Abeni Hill

Art is not only a means of expression, it is a means of communication and maintaining one’s authenticity as well as a way to enact social change.

“Art has the ability to change minds and hearts,” said tony the scribe (who prefers using lowercase letters in his performance moniker). The Minneapolis-based rapper, who has experience as a community organizer, stresses the importance of “weaponizing art” as a means of combating global issues like white supremacy and capitalism.

“You think about the way that hip-hop has convinced a lot of people who don’t have relationships with Black folks to understand and care about the Black experience,” said tony the scribe.

Another homegrown artist, Jessica Manning, said arts can act as a segue to having difficult conversations.

“Art has the way of bringing about the conversation in a way that is a little more approachable,” said Manning. “Talking about the Black experience, I think that can be better done in music or in theater. It can bridge that gap for someone that might be ignorant to the issue.”

The singer also said in these days and times it is easy to lose sight of various opinions.

“It is really easy to think about your point of view only; and that has really been a wake-up call for me to really practice what I preach and be inclusive and not shut anyone out because they think a little bit differently than myself,” said Manning.

The alternative R&B artist hopes through her music to encourage young people to stay true to their own narrative.

“It is my biggest goal to help kids feel understood,” said Manning, who said she looked to art for healing in her adolescent years. “I wanted to feel understood and that my story wasn’t ‘other.’ For me art is everything. I know in my music making it is really important for me to be relatable and tell my story in its truest form.”

tony the scribe and Manning are two of the artist featured on Hennepin County Libraries program, MnSpin.

Both artists were guests on KFAI’s “Conversations with Al McFarlane.” “Conversations” airs Tuesdays at 1 p.m. on KFAI (90.3 FM and online at

January 8, 2018
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