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By Shanti Escalante-De Mattei
Since last year, the date January 6 has taken on a new connotation after pro-Trump protestors stormed the U.S. Capitol Building. But that isn’t the only important happening that occurred on that day in history, and For Freedoms is reaching back further back in time for an NFT—the group’s first—themed around a different event that took place on January 6.
Founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas, Eric Gottesman, Michelle Woo, and Wyatt Gallery in 2016 as a super PAC in the lead-up to that year’s presidential election, For Freedoms takes its name from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address, known as the Four Freedoms speech, which advocates for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. That speech was delivered on January 6, 1941.

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Two years later, Norman Rockwell, illustrator of quintessential scenes of midcentury American life, created a series of paintings depicting the tenets of Roosevelt’s speech.
“Those images became symbolic of the ideas of American freedom, culture, and family,” said Gottesman, who serves as For Freedoms’s artistic director. “But if you look at them—not even that closely—you’ll notice that pretty much everybody is white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, with few exceptions.”
For the NFT, For Freedoms has updated Rockwell’s iconic Freedom from Want (1943), an image of a white family about to eat a Thanksgiving Day meal, by replacing the figures with members of the group’s core team. Hank Willis Thomas is shown holding the turkey. “We realized that no one image could represent America, but in taking this picture of our ‘family,’ we were encouraging people through this image to join us, to take a seat at the table,” Gottesman said.
The group’s Freedom from Want NFT went live January 6 on the NFT platform OpenSea as a way to connect For Freedoms with a new community, who, in Gottesman’s opinion, share a lot of core values with the collective. “My initial understanding of what NFTs are was as just another way to sell artwork,” Gottesman said. “But as I learn more about the possibilities of decentralization and web3, I see NFTs as a gateway drug to a system that is pushing toward a more accessible institution, more voices at the table, which is what For Freedoms have been advocating for.”

The NFT comes in an edition of 81, with 20 percent of the proceeds going to UCLA Center for Justice, which looks to end mass incarceration, and the rest of the proceeds going to support For Freedom’s goal of expanding the freedoms it advocates for. In previous years they’ve led campaigns around Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, Freedoms from Fear; in 2020 they launched the Awakening campaign and this year’s theme is Another Justice, By Any Medium Necessary.
“We think that there are a lot of people out there that believe the world can be a better place,” Gottesman said. “We want to expand the ways to those people that we together can communicate and work together.”
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