A panel discusses the arts and how they relate to student debt at 934 Gallery, located at 934 Cleveland Ave on Sept. 13. Credit: Mitch Hooper | Engagement Editor

A panel discusses the arts and how they relate to student debt at 934 Gallery, located at 934 Cleveland Ave on Sept. 13. Credit: Mitch Hooper | Engagement Editor

With the election cycle growing closer, hitting on issues such as student debt is only the beginning for Clarify.

Clarify is a new series launched by Spotify, Mic and Headcount.org. Each discussion is geared towards millennials and their interest in music and important political and social issues impacting their lives.

On Tuesday, the series hosted a panel at 934 Gallery in Columbus.

The first session’s panel –– which featured MTV News columnist Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Stuart McIntyre of the Ohio Students Association, Victoria Jackson of Policy Matters Ohio and Densil R.R. Porteous II, director of marketing and communications at The Wexner Center for the Arts –– discussed how student debt impacts the arts.

The session began with a pre-recorded video interview of Thomas Pentz, better known as the DJ, Diplo, talking about his struggles while attending college. After obtaining an associates degree from the University of Central Florida, he moved to Philadelphia to take classes at Temple University where he worked three different jobs to support himself. Now that he has struck success in the music industry, Pentz wants to help college students like him who face student debt.

“Everyone I know has debt,” he said. “I was one of the few with a small lucky fortune.”

The video portion of Clarify called student debt a growing problem citing the student debt rate raises $2,726 every second. With 40 million students facing loans in the country, the panel set out to raise awareness on this growing issue.

“Human creative potential is being sacrificed,” Porteous said. “If we really look at the problems we have in the world today, we can’t afford that.”

McIntyre spoke about how people who face debt think they are alone and feel ashamed. He went on to say one of the key actions needed to begin fighting this feeling is taking individual problems and turn them into collective problems so collective action can be taken to find a solution.

The panel went on to talk about the music industry and artists who have spoken out about student loans and debt. Willis-Abdurraqib talked about how the Kanye West album, “The College Dropout,” was empowering to those who had dropped out of school.

“It’s a brave, bold album that poked fun at and proudly talked about what it is to not be in an institution and to be great,” Willis-Abdurraqib said.

Although he admits dropouts may still have a feeling of shame, he said this album helped those feel they hadn’t failed, but rather, succeeded in opening another door.

Clarify will have eight different sessions in eight different cities around the country and will be streamed on Spotify weekly. Each session features a musician or band including rap/metal group Prophet of Rage discussing the economy, rap artist Vic Mensa speaking on civil rights and hip-hop artist Talib Kweli talking about gun laws.

One way Columbus can make an impact and make a change, McIntyre said, is to simply show up. Using Occupy Wall Street as an example, he told a story about his friend who was involved and how it started small and eventually grew into a large movement. In the closing moments of the discussion, McIntyre offered some advice.
“You never know what kind of change is going to happen from your actions,” he said.