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By Amy Morse

Rose Jaffe is a badass artist. She illustrates, paints and carves images of women activists and friends through a prolific body of multimedia works – in bold colors, overlapping lines, and feminine bodies without commercialized proportions. I first encountered her “Feminists Fuck with Facts” wheatpasting on an electrical box in Mount Pleasant – Guerilla Girls-style factoids about pay equity and incarcerated women. What. A provocative collaboration between Rose and her talented artist co-conspirator Kate Deciccio, the works are beautiful, subversive, unapologetic declarations of injustice pointing out opportunities for action. Their work couldn’t be better positioned – next to bike lanes and pedestrian walkways where we can take the time to engage in the public discourse that the street art has to offer.

Rose was born and raised in D.C. After art school, she spent time teaching art and after-school programs, eventually making the leap to full-time creative. She balances her life with work on illustration and murals, and her own artist practice of printmaking and painting. Rose’s (awesome) ideal evening is bottomless tea, a blank canvas and maybe even a good podcast to spice things up. Her work most often features the female form, inspired by and celebrating the women in her life. Rose uses her artwork as a tool for social commentary – exploring themes of feminism, environmental justice, and immigration, among others. She believes in the power of art to cross language and cultural barriers, and to tell stories that can be interpreted and appreciated by many.

A woman from history who inspires her

Angela MF Davis.

Angela Davis is a living activist, author, civil rights leader, public intellectual, and retired professor. Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944, Davis was exposed to racially-motivated violence from a young age, including a notorious church bombing that killed several young African American girls. Her neighborhood was plagued by segregationist violence and nicknamed “Dynamite Hill.” As a teenager, she organized interracial study groups and pursued academics and activism. She studied at top universities, including the prestigious Sorbonne. Unafraid to challenge systemic racism, her activism and affiliation with the Black Panthers and Communist Party landed her on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List in 1970. She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, an organization committed to abolishing mass incarceration.

Check out her 1974 interview from the California State Prison.

Rose painted a portrait of Davis in college and has followed her work and her personal story. She is incredibly inspiring – and continues to be so. Women, especially women of color, that have risked their livelihood (because their lives are at risk) to speak against the systemic racism and inequality in our country are the most critical voices that need to be heard. Rose is ready to hear less from old white men, and more from the lived experiences of women of color, like Ms. Davis.

Rose recommends volunteering and following the following organizations:

  • HIPS promotes the health, rights, and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by sexual exchange and/or drug use due to choice, coercion, or circumstance. HIPS provides compassionate harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement that is respectful, non-judgmental, and affirms and honors individual power and agency.
  • Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) is a grassroots organization that works to empower people in the DC metropolitan area to build a community free from public sexual harassment and assault.
  • ReCreative Spaces is an initiative to transform vacant commercial properties into short-term hubs of creativity.
  •  Cuba Skate – Cuba Skate’s aim is to support and grow the Cuban skateboarding community by providing access to skateboarding equipment that is otherwise unavailable on the island. In doing so, Cuba Skate strives to foster a constructive environment for Cuban youth that will have a positive impact on the greater community.
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