2 FAMU students in inaugural class of Beats by Dr. Dre

Graphic design major Elijah Rutland is one of two FAMU students in the first class of Beats by Dr. Dre. Photo courtesy Rutland

After the murder of George Floyd,protests have flooded the news and “activism” has been one of the key words of 2020. With many putting their life on the line to stand up against injustices, others decided to let their creativity speak for them.

Beats By Dr. Dre announced a new initiative that allows Black HBCU students or recent graduates an opportunity to put their art to work by contributing to the Beats brand.

“This three-month, paid program is your opportunity to dive into one of the biggest brands in the world, to be mentored by leaders in the industry, and to express your creativity,” according to the Beats by Dr. Dre website.

With the contest catching the eyes of many, FAMU students Jazmin Johnson and Elijah Rutland were chosen to participate in the program. With Johnson and Rutland creating pieces centered on their Blackness the two have not fallen short of activism.

Jonson has had an interest in film since she was 9 years old but wasn’t focused on just the big screen as a kid. With her small inner-city elementary school exposing her to different styles of dance, instruments and even etiquette classes she was pushed to just simply try.

“Since I was an only child, I always felt lonely,” said Johnson. “And my creativity through telling stories kind of made me feel that a little less.”

Johnsons film, “Sounds of War,” was created to show a young woman’s escapism in the face of injustice.

While Johnson is all about capturing Black beauty on film, she also has feelings of angst when Black bodies are slain in the streets. Johnson has written, directed, and starred in a short film that told her daily thoughts as a young Black woman in America.

“Sounds of War” has allowed Johnson to tell a story that many may not get to see but need to know. By depicting this different angle on the emotions of a young Black woman, Johnson has shown the softness and intimate moments between a woman and her daily thoughts.

Rutland, owner of a shoe customization company, Fix My Sole, was chosen to be Beats By Dr. Dre custom creator. With this opportunity Rutland will create a custom headphone and matching packaging for the 2021 Black History Month collection.

“Although I’m not much of a talker my art speaks for me,” Rutland said. “I wouldn’t get up to give a speech but through drawing and painting I am able to express myself.”

Rutland has taken all of FAMU by storm with his custom designs and viral graphics. With his gift he has been able to places that many have never been.

Focusing on creating a versatile pair of headphones that aren’t only for Black History Month but for every day of the year, Rutland has worked closely with the Beats team.

“Black history is and always will be an important part of my life, and these headphones are a celebration of that,” Rutland said.

With the goal of not making an obvious Kente cloth or cliché red, black and green design Rutland has put his creativity to the test to encapsulate the subtle nuances within the Black community.

These two FAMU students have pushed their creative processes to get across their vision. By being in the first class of Beats By Dr. Dre these two have paved the way for many more Black creatives. By using filmmaking to tell a personal story or using acrylic paint to depict an image, activism is not only about protesting but the freedom of expression as well.