Shanai Matteson of Works Progress shares her thoughts

Works Progress with Kyle 2

Works Progress with Jayanthi Kyle (album cover art 1 of 2)

In preparation for this weekend’s discussion at The Averill and Bernard Leviton Gallery at Columbia College, we are sharing some thoughts from Shanai Matteson of Works Progress. You can find out more about Works Progress’ project for Organize Your Own by visiting


Off the top of my head, here are some things I’ve been thinking about, and that Jayanthi and I have also talked about, though she can chime in here with other thoughts if she has time. This really represents my own thinking and nothing more.


-We live in Minnesota, and there is a culture here of “Minnesota Nice” that is very paternalistic. I was steeped in this within the rural white community where I grew-up, and I think it stands as an important barrier to overcome in organizing against racism, and that there is a lot of work to be done by white artists and organizers to make this cultural aspect clear, and to find ways to undo it:


-I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that violence organizes our communities and our movements (both the ways we move about the city, and the ways we create social movements) and how this violence is racialized, but also gendered – and experienced in so many everyday ways that impact men and women differently. Here is an article that talks about one local example:


-Finally, I’ve become interested, through this project, in the “Blue Lives Matter” movement, as I think it represents a white supremacist movement that is disguising itself as reactionary to the criticisms of police, but is actually proactively building a white supremacist network, exploiting the dead bodies of both black people and fallen police officers to push fear, hatred, and anti-black sentiment in predominantly white working class communities.


-This has happened, for example, in my community, where a white officer was killed by a white man who was in custody after brutally abusing his wife and attempting suicide. The Blue Lives matter group jumped on this incident immediately to build its network statewide in rural MN, and when the police killing of Jamar Clark happened a few weeks later, these networks (built over the death of an officer) became the go-to “news” source for many in rural MN about Minneapolis. The disinformation and hatred they spread about the 4th Precinct protest was staggering, and I think played no small role in encouraging the shooting of protestors that occurred by white supremacists.


I am interested in these dynamics as well, because I think when it comes to our contemporary moment, they will continue to have an impact, and I struggle with my own response.

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