Artistic Social Justice Media

Writing and Justice Conference

I joined the wonderful group of people who created this conference partly because of  Charlotte Howe’s commitment and enthusiasm for the project. But after meeting Katie and the students I was even more happy to be a part of it. I have a special place in my heart for social justice because of my experience of racism and violence as a child.

The weekly classes were great brainstorming sessions. The students were so bright and engaged. I would leave thinking about something new and thought provoking. The concept of public collective joy building a sense of community is so simple and important. I think deep down we know this but we talk ourselves out of it because of feeling foolish or too busy for such frivolity. But being around people who just wanted to share joy and positive energy was such a boost to my level of happiness. It was contagious and it is reinvigorated in me every time I think about the crowd dance  or Ashley and Nathen’s performance. By the way, I felt a tsunami of joy that brought tears to my eyes when I watched Ashley and Nathen perform their lovely tender dance of humanity at the conference. This was a moment of healing light and grace that I will never ever forget. Truly it is beyond words. Nathen is an 18 year old young man with down syndrome. He takes dance classes with the key note speaker Ashley Anderson. His story is amazing. He embodies dance, like a dancer at Ballet West. He takes it very seriously. I wish you could see him and Ashley warm up. See Ashley Anderson & Nathens Performance

As I started this class  I was also in Foundation II Painting class. One of the assignments was to create a painting using only pure color. No black or white for mixing shades and tints. I couldn’t help thinking about how my life would be without black or white. It struck a few nerves. I always explain the diversity in my family by saying, “I come from a long line of open-minded lovers”.  Which may or may not be true. Maybe some of my ancestors weren’t given a choice when they created the child who was within my ancestry.

I have Mexican, German, African-American, English, Irish, Scottish, French, Middle Eastern, Native American, slaves and slave owners within my family dna. At one time or another these races were at war over prejudice, land or money. I wondered if they still fight within me. Is that the fear or rage that comes through and stops me from “fitting in”? Maybe feeling at odds or out of balance is them telling me to sit and hear their stories of collective oppression, fear and sadness, so that I can truly have justice within me.

Once I spoke with Karol Truman author of “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die”. She and many other healers believe that trauma leaves an imprint in our dna and is passed down from generation to generation attracting more trauma in our lives. The only hope for healing it is to acknowledge the journey or the story of the trauma and come to understand its influence.

I thought of the imprint of pain and misunderstanding because of the black and white mentality that cripples humanity. I thought about how I could create justice for them within me. I felt them say, “you must know our story before you can understand how to heal it”.

I visualized them all, speaking of their lives and their journeys, asking to be heard, forgiven or accepted. I wanted to hear them all. I wanted to heal them all. I saw them making peace with each other in another realm where no black or white was allowed, just the pure colors of their essence.  They were my inspiration for these paintings.

I see them all dancing within me.

I see them in the face my grandchild.

Changing the world begins within, outside of black and white.

At the conference I explained why I care about justice. I spoke about the 1980 murders of my friends who were with me as we jogged in Liberty Park. We were shot for “race mixing” by a racist serial killer who was  suspected of 39 murders and convicted of 22 murders in 12 states. I am 1 of 4 survivors from his violent rage. It was a life changing moment in our lives and the lives of our families.

I saw a man come closer as I spoke to the first people who asked about my paintings and why I care about social justice. He turned pale. I asked if he was all right. He said, “I was a little boy in the store across the street when you were shot. My aunt gave the boys cpr on the street. We have worried and wondered about you all these years. How are you?” This was somewhat shocking for both of us. We spoke at length and when he left, he mentioned that his aunt recently passed away. He seemed glad for the closure of meeting me. I felt humbled at the thought that there were so many affected by that horrible night but by some extraordinary coincidence we met at this event a few weeks after his selfless aunt passed away.

I have a hard time getting to comfortable with people and exposing my vulnerable heart when it comes to healing racism. But as I kept telling my story to those who asked why I was there, it became less painful to speak about it. I felt safe and supported and less broken.

I am in my late 40’s now and I am a grandmother to 2 wonderful little girls. They give me the courage to keep trying to make this world a better place than when I arrived. They come with our

family to my “social justice” rally’s, marches and speeches. I hope that they feel the connection of collective joy and conscious that I feel when we participate in the journey to justice, with other like-minded people in my community.

10 years from now I will look back on this experience with reverence and appreciation for the kind wonderful people who participated and believed that the journey to justice is not for one, but for all. We are all the change we wish to see in the world and I am grateful I was a part of it.

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2 responses

  1. Terry, This is such a wonderful piece. It must have been wonderful to talk to the man that was a young boy back on that horrible day in Liberty Park. You are right, so many people were affected that horrible night – more than you know probably. Love you dearly, Caroline

    May 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

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