“It is never okay to commit a crime in our honor,” Nia Miranda says in her now-famous viral video. The actor stops two women who are defacing a Los Angeles coffee shop, telling them, “We, the black community, will be targeted for it. This is a 400-year battle we are fighting. And if you can’t adhere to how we need your help, then stay home.”
That moment inspired a song on the new Roc Nation compilation Reprise. “Sullen Sunday” is a collaboration among a number of artists, including singer-songwriters Ty Dolla $ign and Ant Clemons, as well as the DJ and record producer Skrillex.
Miranda shares the story of her activism and the path that has taken her to become involved in this new musical project.
What was going through your mind as you confronted the two women caught tagging a store with graffiti?
I saw the two women spray painting “Black Lives Matters” on a Starbucks
How did you go from being a little girl raised in Detroit to becoming a voice for the Black community during the fight for racial equality?
My name, Nia, means “purpose.” I’ve always understood that my name carried responsibility. And this is the time to fight against injustice, and not just do it from sitting at home. When I was a little girl, my mom showed me a film about Ruby Bridges, the first Black little girl going to an integrated school. I knew that I had that same energy inside of me. I can recall telling people that if I was born back in the day, I would’ve been marching with Martin [Luther King, Jr.] and with Malcolm [X]. If I was a slave, it would’ve been me and Sojourner [Truth] and Harriet [Tubman].
You call yourself an “ARTivist.” What does that mean to you?
ARTivist because I’ve always been an artist. Art changes things. Art changes history—whatever facet of art it’s coming from, if it’s film, if it’s music, if it’s visual art. It allows people to step back, take themselves out of it, and critically think without too much bias. So ARTivism is bringing art and activism together in a beautiful joint marriage that allows everyone to take a moment to look at what’s going on in the world.
Does it ever scare you to be an activist in this day and age?
I’m not scared. I grew up on the east side of Detroit. People say, ‘If you can make it out of Detroit, you can make it anywhere.’ I’ve tested those waters; I’ve traveled a few places, and I’ve seen it to be true. My whole mission right now is to live free or die trying. I mean, what is life if you’re not free?
What do you hope the #BLM movement will achieve? What’s the best way forward for our society and for our country?
I would like to see true equality, not the facade of it. I’d like to see people learning more about our heritage. A lot of Black people think our history started with slavery. We were enslaved. We didn’t start as slaves. I want to see financial freedom and also to see more accurate representations.
Let’s talk about your production company, Bringing Love Back.
It started as a podcast in 2013, with my then boyfriend, Ben, who’s now my husband. We wanted to show that love can heal and can change all things. I believe that’s where unity starts. If I can create films or events that teach those in my community how to thoroughly love themselves, hopefully, that love can become contagious.
What’s the biggest barrier to Black folks becoming the mainstream voices that they need to be in the media?
Who’s controlling the media? If you think about anything that Black people thrive in, we own it for a second. Then it’s purchased by someone else and they control it.
You can expect an album that will that will inspire, empower, and rejuvenate the people out there who are in the streets marching and speaking. Music inspires people. I don’t see this time that we’re in right now ending quickly. And so, you need to have a song that you can go back to, that keeps you moving forward.
How did you get involved in project?
I got a DM [direct message] from someone from in the producer Skrillex’s camp saying ‘Hey, Nia, Skrillex saw your video. He was inspired and so him, Ty Dolla $ign and Ant Clemons went in the studio and they created a song. And here it is.’
I listened to it. I’m like mouth on the ground, tears in my eyes. Going viral right, now you have tons of people who are going viral on TikTok by doing dances and funny things.
But for Nia to go viral this way? It was the best way I could see for myself, to see that my video was able to inspire people who inspire me. The portion of my video that he used was at the end, when I say, ‘When you see something like that, you’re supposed to stand up and say something.’ And that, to me, has to be a movement in itself.