Carlton Turner works nationally as a performing artist, organizer, policy shaper, lecturer, consultant, and facilitator. He is the executive director of Alternate ROOTS, a regional arts service organization based in the South, supporting artists working at the intersection of art and social justice.

He also founded the newly formed Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, an organization working at the intersection of new media production and agriculture to support cultural, social, and economic development in his rural hometown of Utica, Mississippi. In addition, he and his brother Maurice Turner are co-founders and co-artistic directors of M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction), a Mississippi-based performance group blending jazz, hip-hop, spoken word poetry, and soul music with non-traditional storytelling.


[The words “Art Is” appear, followed by scrolling words…Empathy, Political, Hope, Powerful, Social Change…it stops at Transformation. Art Is Transformation.]

[A sitting man plays the marimba. Multiracial performers practice group dances.]

[Carlton Turner, Performing Artist and Organizer.]

Carlton Turner: Art is all about the ways that we practice cultural transformation. Artists are cultural strategists working to eliminate oppression in communities throughout the country, to make sure that those who have been disenfranchised have spaces where their voices can also be heard. Organizations like SpiritHouse in North Carolina, who’s doing work around harm-free zones and building safe spaces for young people, working with the city to shift the way that we think about safety.

[Artists brainstorm at Spirithouse.]

SpiritHouse Organizer Mya Hunter: Safety is no strikes you’re out. Safety is knowing that someone else is there who will assist.

Carlton: Those are examples of artists that are taking this community work and engaging in social transformation. We can begin to see our communities shift as a result of artists that are doing really frontline, hardline work and translating it into part of the landscape for social change.

[The words “Art is” appear, followed by scrolling words…Transformation, Expression, Change, Creativity, Healing…it stops at Justice. Hashtag Art Is Justice. Agree? Share this video.]

[Ford Foundation logo: a globe made up of a series of small, varied circles.]

[Production credits appear on screen. For a full list of credits, please review the downloadable transcript.]

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Turner serves on the boards of First People’s Fund, Imagining America, the Center for Media Justice, and Project South for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide. He is a member of the We Shall Overcome Fund’s advisory committee at the Highlander Center for Research and Education. He is also member of the Art x Culture x Social Justice Network steering committee, a former member of the Network of Ensemble Theaters steering committee, and a founding collaborating partner in the Intercultural Leadership Institute.

He lives in Utica, Mississippi, with his wife and three children.

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