Martin Luther King once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Hello my name is Terry. Most people don’t know my story. It isn’t one that I feel safe sharing. It isn’t a pretty story. I had hoped that I would not feel compelled to share it ever again. But today as I stand here with a heavy heart for Trayvon Martin and his loved ones, I will share a story about racism in Utah.
The last shreds of childhood innocence were stolen from me when I was 15 years old. In 1980 a racist serial killer came to Salt Lake City, Utah with the hopes of starting a race war. We were unaware as he stalked us that night. He shot and murdered my African American friends, Ted Fields and David Martin and shot me for race mixing.
Life was never the same after that day. The emotional and physical toll it took on the families of these incredible young men is immeasurable. That night, every ounce of innocence was drained from our lives. It’s been almost 32 years since that horrible crime. I still remember every single detail. It’s part of my history. It is part of Utah’s history. I think of Ted, Dave and their loved ones every single day, as I will for Trayvon and his loved ones.
I’ve come to understand that racism is like cancer. You can’t put a band aid on cancer and expect it to disappear. If you ignore it and don’t address it immediately it will spread and grow until it kills.
We are in need of rational truthful dialogue to eradicate and heal it once and for all. I believe the cure for racism’s curse are the conversations we are uncomfortable having.
American’s must FACE the past of our ancestors and the present norm in society regarding race relations. There is no other way. It won’t be a pretty picture, oppression never was. We must seek the truth and avoid the tendency to fight to be right. It is time to listen and truly hear the truth.
If we are to heal the cancer of racism, we must KNOW the stories of the oppressed to understand the effect it has on its victims and our society.
Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.
Education can cure the fear or hate passed on to our children. Knowledge is powerful. It transforms us into who we are meant to be. It makes us whole.
As Brian Jones, a brilliant teacher and activist said, “Racism is product of believing that some people are not worthy of justice and those people are overwhelmingly young and black and male. That the best place for them is prison or an invisible cage of post felony life. George Zimmerman saw what society has taught him to see. He saw someone who was already a criminal. The criminal justice system seems to be afraid of these cases, of creating real justice for these men. Because to deal with them we would have to reveal the depths of racism in our system.”
Trayvon’s murder has become an invitation to join the discussion of equality, racism and justice in America.
We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our world to learn our true history. We must hear the stories of the oppressed and honor their journey and love them.
There should not be an “us and them” any more. Humanity is the color of water, not skin.
Isn’t it time for us to help humanity join the human race?
How can one person change this huge problem in our country? I can tell you what works for me.
When I lose hope and become overwhelmed with the complexities of healing from the racism in our world, I reflect on the NAACP Value statement. It is my compass.
* I believe all Americans have equal rights and equal value.
* I cherish the diverse cultures, beliefs, and values of America.
* I believe we can disagree without being disagreeable.
* I repudiate all acts of racism and hate, both in words and action.
* I have faith in the promise of America – a promise built on mutual respect, common civility, and hope for a better tomorrow.
* I commit to building that better America by participating actively and peacefully in the democratic process.
I think Dr King said it best in 1963
“Let us all hope the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away & the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities. In some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love & brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
For me, these are the timeless truths that fosters hope in humanity and continue to heal my broken heart. I am directed to pay attention to the Light, that Light that brought us here and will escort us on the way home.
Thank you for being a light. Thank you for standing up for Justice for Trayvon Martin and all the Trayvon Martins in our world.
I spoke with a talk show host named Rod Arquette the other day, regarding healing my PTSD through my art exhibit and the story of my friends murders in Liberty Park.
Its ironic that the murders were so contrary to the name of the park. “Liberty” was literally murdered on the street right in front of my eyes that night in 1980.
I never thought about it til today, but I had such a beautiful history with Liberty Park before the murders. It was a stable place where I felt safe.
I loved Liberty Park as a child. It was a place I visited often. My grandparents lived down the street.
When I was 5 I looked for the tooth fairy in the tree knot holes and performed on the Victorian stage that was torn down years later. In the summers I took swimming, tennis and art lessons there while my single mother worked. I was a member of the Liberty Belles, girls tennis team. My friends and family picnicked, played, roller-skated, sang and danced there before the murders.
As a child we moved alot. I went to 22 schools by the time I was in 10th grade. But Liberty Park was a safe zone for me until I was shot there at 15 years old.
When Ted and Dave were killed there, so was my affection for Liberty Park. It was such an ugly irony that the name is based on American values and the truth about American made terrorism was being displayed on the grounds that were so sacred to me.
I often get asked if things are better since the murders. It has been 33 years. In some ways its better.
But all you have to do is look at the trial of George Zimmerman and the comments from trolls on the internet that send hate behind the anonymity of a keyboard and screen.
The “Angry Trayvon” game that depicts the murder VICTIM as a thug and aggressor is VICTIM BLAMING plain and simple. Victim blaming has always been an effective and accepted tool to control the masses of the oppressed.
I think of Trayvon’s mother and all the mothers who know this trauma and I want to protect them from the hate.
I want to heal this cancer of us and them.
I think about whether JPF would still be in prison 33 years later, after convictions of 22 murders. They stopped bringing charges against him since he has 5 life terms and 2 death sentences. They thought it would be a waste of taxpayers money. I agree. But I question if he would still be tax burden to the citizens, with a death sentence hanging over his head, if he were a black Muslim killing white people because of their race.
Lee Malvo, a black serial killer that implicated a young black boy, killed 15 people was convicted in 2005 and executed in 2009. That’s 4 years of waiting. The impressionable young boy got life. Their killings were considered “terrorist” attacks.
In my opinion JPF was an American, white, Christian terrorist.
I haven’t slept for several weeks more than a few hours here and there. I don’t want to dream. But I want to sleep. Impossible. This morning I woke from a horribly vivid nightmare. This serial haunting follows me, when I’m stressed or upset. Reminding me that I am a hostage unless I talk about it. But, if I do talk about it I risk every thing. It’s not polite or pretty. But polite and pretty keeps me in this nightmare. I am held hostage, holding my tongue so I don’t pollute the air for those who haven’t experienced random violence, child abuse, rape, poverty, incest, trauma, racism, PTSD and anything else.I know things like this have happened since the beginning of time. But what if they happen because nobody talks about it?
Subconsciously, I believed that the victims on the news must have done something to deserve the tragedy that befell them. It insulated me from the thought that it could ever happen to me or anyone I love. I felt safe in my bubble of naiveté, “As long I do everything right, nothing bad will happen to me. I’m a good person.”
So, I became polite and pretty. But I can’t wear that title anymore. My nightmares are forcing me to jump out of the burning building of my past. And it is neither polite nor pretty. I descend knowing that I’m landing with truth.
My past is like a knife. I can use it to serve or harm. I can’t change the past. But I can follow hope as I navigate through this moment. Hope in humanity. The future is changed with one person’s thought, any person involved in the holograms of my life. I can’t control what they think. I can’t control the future.
I worry about offending everyone with my truth. But is it less offensive to deny it, to avoid the shattering of an illusion?
My dream last night was so vivid. I was trapped in a house with people who were suffering from different abnormalities. All were muttering to themselves, lost and paranoid. All were angry, sad and insane in their own unfortunate way, representing different aspects of my psyche. Long, shiny, silver, sewing shears were everywhere. I knew I had to use them to kill, for a chance at survival. But I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just wanted to go, to get out of this madness.
I grabbed a heavy cold pair of scissors as I looked for the door, planning the fastest path of least resistance. A nude, disfigured, blind woman slowly walked by me. Touching the walls feeling her way through the room.
Her heart was under her skin but above the rib cage. I could see the outline of it. Pumping and exposed as though it was calling me to kill her first. She would be easiest to eliminate. Her heart was asking for it, by being so exposed.
I planned my route for the escape and raised my cold weapon to plunge into her beating heart. I saw that she was me and I awoke in a cold sweat.
It shook me. Forgotten pieces of the dream came to me throughout the day. As I interpreted the dream, I realized there are things in my past that must be cut from my psyche and my life. Like a surgeon addressing cancer, I am the surgeon and I am the patient. I am the victim and I am the victor. I am the destroyer and I am the healer. I am a wanderer alone in a sea of people of the chaotic city and I am the butterfly floating gracefully in the forest.
A friend sent me a beautiful quote today regarding my artwork.
“We cannot undo the past, but we can recognize what has happened and why. To ignore past misdeeds is to condone them, if only by silence; to acknowledge past misdeeds is to educate, and to educate is to prepare the way for a better tomorrow. Historical tragedies must not be forgotten but kept alive in our individual and collective historical memories as tangible reminders of what can never be allowed to happen again.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.”
To honor my murdered friends, Ted Fields and David Martin, I hope to do my part to heal racism. I joined Brolly Arts and Art Access Gallery for an art exhibition called Justice For Some? Amy McDonald, Brolly Arts, and Sheryl Gillilan, Art Access Gallery, both executive directors respectively, were so supportive of public acts of creative healing.
This exhibit opened with the most talented brave dancers who performed every 30 minutes for 3 hours. They sought to bring awareness to human rights issues that plague our society. The performers spoke about their personal journeys. It was so moving and powerful. Everyone involved in this project was a light of beauty.
Justice For Some? is the evolution of many Justice For Some? pilot projects that have included workshops, community outreach and performance. 2013
Justice For Some? offers a model that is replicable in other settings for populations and issues.
The components of Justice For Some? included choreography by Sofia Gorder and performance by dancers and Westminster College students, the Drum Bus whose focus is on bullying, and an installation by the authors of “What I Thought I Saw”. Carla Kelley of the Human Rights Education of Utah
workshopped with cast members prior to the event.
Justice For Some? is the evolution of many Justice For Some pilot projects that have included workshops, community outreach and performance. 2013
Justice For Some? offers a model that is replicable in other settings for populations and issues. This valuable model can be used to help bring the
awareness and information to a wide array of people, locations, and situations. The content of the program, workshops, discussions, and movement can be tailored to suit the needs and interests o the communities being served.
I dream of my beloved Granny when I create this art. I know that she and many of my ancestors walk with me as I descend into hell to retrieve my voice.
I used the newspaper articles that broke me at the time of the murders. I always avoided reading them. While I was creating my art I read many news articles for the first time. My parents shielded me from them when I was a child. I heard about them but didn’t read them. If I am honest with myself I chose not to read them because I knew it would be too painful. It took a long time to read them and process what I feel about them. I feel broken sometimes by them.
My PTSD has been hitting me hard lately. I have literally lost my memory FOR WORDS in mid sentence as I am talking to people. It usually only lasts for as long as it takes to breathe one breath. But it scares the hell out of me when it happens. I wondered if I was having a stroke. My migraines, loss of appetite or relentless vomiting and night terrors were amped up substantially.
But I have to keep moving towards the finish line. This is a very challenging journey to explain to people in words. It seems that my art communicates more clearly if I use the words of the news print at the freshest time of the murders.
As I created these pieces, I thought about my favorite Goddess story. It is eerily accurate in describing my world right now. It was written thousands of years before the bible.
“Inanna was the beautiful goddess of heaven and earth. She blessed people and their crops. She introduced the moon and the sun every day. She was loved and revered by all. One day she decided that she would go to the underworld to visit the ruler, her sister Ereshkigal.
She dressed in her finest jewels and gold, things of sentimental importance. As she descended into the earth she would come upon a gate. At each gate she was asked to give an offering to proceed. She entered the 7th gate naked. When she tried to embrace her sister she was killed by her.
Inanna was hung on a hook for three days while her sister joyously celebrated her death. For it wasn’t only the death of Inanna, it was the death of the earth and the heavens.
On the third day Inanna awoke. She emerged from the underworld that could not contain her. She was stronger and more powerful from the lessons she learned at each gate.”
I am at the 7th gate and there is no turning back.
See the links below for info for Brolly Arts, Art Access Gallery and articles from the media.