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Conversations with Andrew Gibson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrew Gibson.

Hi Andrew, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
As a musician and community organizer, my work centers on the arts, education justice, and dismantling white supremacy in all its forms. I’m the Executive Director of Freedom Arts & Education Center, a youth arts organization that specializes in supporting families with Black and POC students through decolonized educational resources, in-school advocacy, and after school and summer arts training programs.

I’m also the Director of Partnerships with Faith For Justice, a coalition of Christian activists who connect people of faith to Black-led movement orgs, congregations, and campaigns that confront religious supremacy. And with all of that, I’m still an active performing and recording musician, which is what I think really led me to my community organizing work. Music was my focus in high school and college and the more I grew as an artist, the more I saw how those same passions and skills translate directly to correcting oppressive systems and structures. It all goes together for me.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been everything except smooth! With the arts, it takes a lot of creative hustle to stay in your craft and still be able to pay your bills. With the organizing work, working against oppressive systems is not going to bring the safety and security that is peddled to us via the “American Dream.” But staying the course over the years has allowed me to find my people who are devoted to the same work – whether it’s music, education, or organizing – and willing to support. I’m able to do the work that I believe I’m supposed to do and take care of my kids. God has been good.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m a drummer, and I have been told I have a very distinct sound in terms of the specific instruments I use and just the way I play. My mom played a ton of r&b and soul music when I was growing up and I listened and studied those albums religiously. I had NO friends who were listening to James Brown, Otis Redding, or Aretha Franklin with me, but I couldn’t get enough. That foundation carried me to studying jazz in college, and then I found opportunities on the music scene as a live hip hop drummer which increased my repertoire. So between my musical pedigree and the fact that I have carefully chosen unique pieces for my drumset, I feel that I do have a distinct sound. I work on it every single day with the goal of not just only being distinct, but being great.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Risk always includes some kind of sacrifice and investment, even if only sacrificing temporary comfort and investing something we don’t value much to achieve a goal. And the truth is, EVERYTHING requires sacrifice and investment. Walking down the street to the corner store to buy a snack is a sacrifice of time, money, and energy, but we do it so commonly that we don’t perceive it that way. So when I consider risk, I really just ask myself “what am I sacrificing and what am I investing into?” Investing in my loved ones will always be worth it and leveraging the privilege I have to try and make this world better will always be the right move for me. I have taken risks with my reputation and a few with my life, but they’ve all been because I believed in what I was investing in and felt that the sacrifice wasn’t a cost I couldn’t pay. I’m still here, and though I’ve lost relationships with people who don’t approve of my choices, it’s all worked out and been for the greater good.

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Image Credits

Mathias James
Nicole Ellis
Charles Johnston
Miles Dela Cruz

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