Recently I looked for the art piece that helped me heal the hate I had for JPF.
I hung it in my art studio. But it seemed to always be looking down at the space where my grandchildren play, so I moved it.
I usually keep it in a drawer. I didn’t really like looking at it. It was too powerful and painful. Although the intention of healing was tremendous 4 years ago, I felt a heavy weight in my heart when I looked at it.
I searched everywhere and couldn’t find it.
I called my husband he said, “Honey, I think you threw it away.” I was stunned. I couldn’t conceive of throwing it away. How could I throw away this powerful symbol that transformed me and JPF so deeply? I was so disappointed in myself.
My fear and anxiety grew.
For days I was deeply concerned about my mental health. Why couldn’t I remember throwing it away? It didn’t seem like something I would do; throw away meaningful art. I wondered why I wouldn’t sell it rather than discard it? I had offers to purchase it. But I kept it to use in race and ethnicity classes at the community college.
Days of beating myself up and retracing my steps led me to remember what happened:
I had a strong urge to listen to the last of the recorded conversations I had with JPF, the day before his execution. In our conversation, he showered me with compliments, gratitude and love. He seemed genuinely sincere when he told me how much it meant to him that I would forgive him. He asked that I call his friend Glen Miller, suggesting he would be good to me.
I never called his friend. I may have forgiven JPF but I’m not stupid. I felt strongly that if I visited him, JPF would have someone waiting in the parking lot at the prison to finish what he started in 1980. That’s why I only spoke to him on the phone. I didn’t trust or like him. I pitied him.
I couldn’t listen to more than a few minutes of our conversation. It was too painful and traumatizing.
I looked up Glen Miller and found several articles including these:
Miller’s murders were committed on JPF’s birthday, the year after his execution. This act of domestic terrorism was mostly ignored by mainstream media. I sincerely believe that ignoring these domestic terrorist’s crimes, helps white supremacy flourish in the shadows.
JPF and Miller’s stories sickened me to my core.
At that moment, I felt that no one, who can do anything about it, cares about healing racism or holding white supremacist domestic terrorists accountable in our country.
Something inside me broke. I walked straight to the garbage and got rid of it, along with the memory of throwing it away.
If only eradicating the ignorance of white supremacy were that easy.
On a hot summer night, August 20, 1980, I was jogging with 3 friends in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah; two black men, Ted Fields, 20 and David Martin, 18 and Karma, my best friend. We were both 15 years old and considered “white”, although my mother is a first generation Mexican American.
On our way home from the park, we were shot in the crosswalk. At first I thought the shots were leftover firecrackers from Pioneer Day, July 24. I assumed someone was throwing them at us because we were “race mixing.” With the first shot, my arm, neck and legs were bleeding and felt like they were on fire. I couldn’t figure out where the firecrackers were coming from. There were no cars on the street. I couldn’t see anyone near us.
Dave said, “They got me.” We all laughed nervously and said “good one.” He fell. His blood was everywhere and the shots kept coming. We all tried to catch him and carry him to the end of the crosswalk. The blood was such a brilliant red color against the black pavement between the white lines of the crosswalk. In hindsight it is incredibly symbolic of the deadly aspects of racism and intolerance in America. Ted fell. Both of them were on the ground. I went into a state of shock. I was like a deer in the headlights. All I could hear was the echo of gunfire. All I could see was Ted’s face.
Ted kept telling me to run. I couldn’t hear him but I could see the words he was saying, when I looked at his contorted face. It took a second for me to absorb what was really happening. “I can’t leave you here!” I said. The shots kept coming. I had the strongest telepathic message from Ted at that moment. “If the situation were reversed you would want me to run. RUN!”
I ran as fast as I could, into the field of 4-5 foot tall grass facing the crosswalk. I thought I could hide from the sniper. But something made me come to an abrupt stop in the middle of the field. I didn’t know it at the time but I was running right to the killer. I felt like I ran into an invisible wall and I stopped. I couldn’t move. But I never saw him. Karma ran into the field and grabbed my arm. A brave woman came outside and ushered us into her basement apartment. I kept hoping I was having a nightmare. “This isn’t real” was played on a loop over and over in my head. But it WAS real.
By the end of the night, Ted and Dave were dead and I was covered in bullet fragments from bullets that passed through Dave and shattered on the pavement all over my tiny teenage body.
We were shot by Joseph Paul Franklin, (JPF), a racist serial killer who killed at least 22 people in 12 different states. He also shot and paralyzed Larry Flint for printing pictures of a black man and white woman having sex in Hustler magazine. He was trying to start a race war all over the country.
He wasn’t captured until October that same year. So for a couple of months, as my sophomore year was about to begin, I was blamed for setting up the murders of my friends, by Utah local media and communities.
This part of my childhood was the PERFECT EXAMPLE of victim blaming. My father was the president of a local motorcycle club and I was still alive. The survivors were pretty “white women” (We were not women. We were 15 years old) and the murdered were college bound young “black boys who were a credit to their race.”
For several days the local newspapers printed articles denying any racial motivation for the murders along with my full name and address. They told my mother the public had a right to know. The other victim’s addresses weren’t given. The reporters made up stories when no one had any leads.
I was a responsible 15 year-old, volunteer tutor, head cheerleader and honor roll student back then. I was voted Miss Dream Girl at my school. But none of that was ever brought up to describe me in the misleading articles that painted me as white trash with no value, a race traitor. I upset the court of public opinion by “race mixing” and they made an example of me. They wanted to make sure other white girls knew the consequences of race mixing, especially with black boys. Even at the age of 15 years old I thought it was strange that I could be considered white in their eyes when it was convenient for casting a shadow over my family. Growing up with my single Mexican mother, the white Mormons made sure we were aware that we were not considered white in their eyes and we were not welcome in their social circles. There was more of them, than us and we knew it.
I wasn’t allowed to go to the funerals. The victim’s families blamed Karma and me. The victims were dead and black. We were alive and white. We weren’t considered victims. Even when the shooter was charged for his crimes our names weren’t on the paperwork as victims, just witnesses. “They lost the most. You’re still alive”, was the reason given by the lawyer.
When the killer was identified, the news never retracted the rumors they started. The rumors stuck to me like a scarlet letter. By October it was still too dangerous for me to live in Utah. There were cars full of people driving slowly by our house with guns pointed at our home. I called the police and asked for protection, but I was told, “Maybe you should have thought of that before you hung out with those niggers. We’re too busy. Call us if anything happens. “
I felt so guilty. I felt that I brought this hate to our home. It was like a bomb was thrown in my family and I believed it was my fault, (I am still overcoming the obstacle of survivors guilt at the age of 50). I had to move out of state and into hiding for our safety. Our lives and relationships would NEVER be the same.
I felt Ted and Dave with me on the 30 year anniversary of the murders, August 20, 2010. I held a private ceremony as I left a crystal, a candle and an unsigned note on the memorial plaque at Liberty Park. I was vulnerable that night. I came out on Facebook and told my friends what happened in 1980. Some “friends” chose to “unfriend” me. But I considered that a blessing of knowing my true friends.
The next day someone saw the offerings on the plaque and called a reporter. But when the reporter got there, the note was gone. She wrote an article in the Salt Lake Tribune the following day and pondered what the note said. A dear friend sent me the link to the article. It took several hours to get the courage to read the comments online. I felt fragile and didn’t know if it would be wise to expose my heart to be broken again.
There were so many comments. When I finally looked, I was surprised to find that 95% of the comments were kind and gracious. I couldn’t believe it. I decided to respond and include the letter. I had to create a user name to respond. I used the name OneLove. I didn’t leave my name or number. But I was required to leave my email. I included my letter and thanked the commenters and reporter for their kind interest.
What unfolded after that comment was miraculous. Within 15 minutes of the post, the reporter called. She wrote another article based on that interview. My only stipulation was that she use my maiden name.
The victim’s families got in touch with the reporter and asked for my contact information and we spoke for the first time. All was forgiven. Every day the reporter wrote a new article to update the community about what was happening.
By the second or third article a woman from Utah Progressives said she would like to create a March In The Park for Ted and Dave, which coincided with the 48-year anniversary of Martin Luther King’s, “I Have A Dream” speech. She asked if I would speak in Liberty Park on August 28, 2010, eight days since I left the offerings on the plaque. I accepted with the exception of using my maiden name rather than my married name.
Ted’s family flew to Utah from several states on a moment’s notice. Dave’s mother was there as well. When my father and his brothers rolled up on their Harleys wearing their colors, everyone tensed up, noticeably.
My father got off his bike and walked up to Ted’s father with open arms. When they embraced he let out a sound that was primal. It startled me. I turned to see my father crying in Ted’s father’s arms. I will never forget it as long as I live. “It wasn’t me. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t even in town that night.” Dad explained. He brought his brothers there to protect the crowd from any racist antics from JPF’s admirers.
When the printed program of the “March In The Park” was passed out, my full legal married name was included. At that point the tv news reporters gave out my name and the paper asked if they could as well. I lost clients and business associates due to my “coming out.” I was worried about my children and their safety more than anything. I knew JPF said his greatest regret was leaving survivors. I was concerned someone would hurt my children to seek his approval.
After the dust settled, I decided to go back to college hoping to understand and heal racism in my community. My first semester, I took a race and ethnicity class as well as a design class. I learned a lot about the world and myself. I learned that race is a social construct. It isn’t real. It was built to keep people of color and immigrants of “undesirable” countries from having access to democracy, wealth and education. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Germans people weren’t even considered white originally in America. Being white was a privilege then, just as it is now.
The first semester final project for my design class was to create a mask. I made a mask out of the newspaper articles mentioned above. I didn’t know it, but I would have to wear it and explain it to the students in the class on the last day of school. It was challenging to be that vulnerable in front of these people who thought they knew me. Trayvon Martin’s story was reaching a fever pitch at the time. I just happened to be wearing a hoodie that day. When I explained my story to the class, I had to put the mask on. I couldn’t wait to leave.
A student followed me in the hall and asked if I would be willing to consider doing an art exhibit. Another student asked if I would lead and speak at the Trayvon Hoodie March. I accepted both invitations. At the end of the semester the students in the Race and Ethnicity class were surprised to know my story and came to the Hoodie March. I found the more that I allowed myself to be vulnerable, the more I healed my PTSD. Migraines, memory lapses and nightmares were less frequent as I became educated and created art.
In June of 2013 my life changed again in a dramatic way. I created an art exhibit with art created from the newspaper articles in 1980, 1981 and 2010. I read the articles from 1980 and 1981 for the first time when I created the pieces for the exhibit.
I was shocked and grateful my parents didn’t allow me to read the articles at the time they were printed. I really don’t think I would be here if I’d seen them back then. Suicide or drug addiction would have been a very likely outcome.
Perhaps you are searching in the petals for what can only be found in the roots. -Rumi
Many people attended the exhibit, including the Tribune’s editor and the former mayor from 1980. I met a man whose aunt gave Dave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the crosswalk. He said his aunt recently died and she was deeply affected by the crime. A friend of a woman who worked at the tennis shop in the park the night of the murders came to the exhibit and told me how the crime affected her. A woman, who survived Auschwitz as a child, attended and told me her story. She said that my art was very important and to keep telling my story so this never happens again. Many times I was humbled to tears, listening to the stories of ripple effects from JPF’s crimes in Salt Lake City. I finally realized that for 30 years I ignored how the murders affected me. But I also ignored how it affected others in my village.
I read an article about JPF’s childhood abuse and neglect. One of the statements from his aunt said that she knew of the severe abuse he had endured and regretted not helping him. I thought of the ripple effect of his child abuse. What would his life be like if help had arrived when he was at the mercy of the merciless? How many lives would be different? I realized he lived a life of punishment, with all of its Karma, from the cradle to the grave. But it began before he had a choice.The child victim in me saw the child victim in him. I couldn’t hate him anymore. My heart felt full of grace and Light replaced the shadows. My heart was scarred but whole. Grace, kindness and compassion was shown to me at just the right moments along my journey.
JPF received two life sentences for murdering Ted and Dave, so did their loved ones. I received a life sentence along with my loved ones. It’s a ripple effect of loss that can’t be adequately defined. The child abuse JPF endured had a ripple effect that proves no one is immune to the effects of a village turning their backs on the suffering of others. We all pay the price one way or another. That’s why it’s so important to remember it takes a village to raise a child.
I created an art piece for JPF and placed it in the gallery on the last day of the exhibit. Then I immediately drove to Millcreek Canyon. I meditated that his suffering be eased. Three weeks later JPF was given his execution date for the murder of a Jewish man. He was never given a death sentence for killing black people. He chose solitary confinement for 33 years to avoid attempts on his life by other inmates.
Child Abuse Casts The Long Shadow of a Lifetime
I believed execution was the only way he could be released from the suffering of this lifetime. I still do.
About a month before the execution I was looking at my Facebook feed and found an article from Southern Poverty Law Center. It said, “Joseph Paul Franklin Denounces Racism and Asks His Victims for Forgiveness.”
I lost time. My husband walked in the room and said “What happened? Why are you crying?” I didn’t even know I was crying. I literally couldn’t talk. I couldn’t find the words. I knew this was an answer to my meditation.
I included a comment to the writer along with a picture of the piece of art I created. I told him to tell JPF I forgave him and to go in peace. I commented that I always wondered why he didn’t kill me. Later an author, writing a book about JPF, commented on the same thread. He mentioned that JPF admitted he couldn’t get me in his scope because the light was in his eyes. Light? It was dark with deserted streets and there were no streetlights that would get in his eyes at that time.
I couldn’t help but think Light energy protected me. We are all energy. What happens when we die? Where does our energy go? Will his energy bind with more hate and make it stronger? I think of my higher power as Light. I had dreams of Light that helped me get through the worst of what happened to me after the murders and it helped me keep going without giving up. My baby book said “Light” was my first word.
I wanted to heal JPF. I wanted to ask him to choose Light when he died. I thought I could give him some of my Light before he died so that he would choose Light and it would tip the scales of healing for everyone who was affected by his murderous rampage. The village failed him as a child and the child took his rage out on the village. I wanted to be different than his village. I wanted to be the embodiment of compassion, kindness and love. It felt like the only solution.
My family was understandably fearful of me talking to him and didn’t want me to do it. At one point my sister said, “What if you give him your Light and you have none left for you?” “It doesn’t work that way. A candle does not lose its flame by lighting another candle”, I said.
I sent him a couple of books to ease his fears while he was waiting in his cell next to the execution room, “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die” by Karol Truman and “The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis. But he didn’t read them.
JPF wanted to talk to me in person. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t feel safe doing it. I wanted to be close to my family. The week before and the day before the execution, we spoke for about 2 hours each time, over the phone.
I tried to be the embodiment of compassion while I spoke to him. He told me about his life in and out of prison. Listening to him talk, sometimes it felt like I was forever falling. I could smell the burning crosses when he described being inducted into the KKK. I could see and hear a thousand white hoods chanting their hate. There were moments of our conversation that I felt dizzy and nauseous from it and wanted to hang up, especially when he said he had pictures of me hanging in his cell.
He told me that he was changed by meditating, and reading about different religions. He even read the Quran and thought it was beautiful. He said he regretted his ignorance tremendously. I hoped he was being honest. But I wasn’t sure. I finally had to make peace with the fact that he was as regretful as he was capable of being.
I asked him for one favor. I asked him to choose Light when he died. I knew he believed in reincarnation, as I do. He said he would do anything for me. I told him, “If you choose Light, come to me as my grandson and I will love and protect you the way you should have been from the beginning of this lifetime. I come from a family of sisters, no brothers. I have daughters, no sons. I have granddaughters, no grandsons. I told him “every time I hold my grandchildren I will love them the way you should have been loved.” He knew I had biracial children and said he didn’t care. He kept thanking me and saying that no one was ever so kind to him. He said he loved me and thanked me over and over, many times. He was as happy as a child on Christmas morning.
I dodged the press and stayed busy as much as possible the last time we spoke, the day before the execution. I told JPF to come to me in spirit if he chose Light, so that I could finally sleep all the way through the night. That day was challenging. He was given 2 stays of execution. But in the early morning of November 20, 2013, I awoke to the news that he was executed.
I withdrew from everyone close to me while dealing with school tests, flashbacks and migraines. I saw the interviews he gave on TV as the media had the execution on every channel. I was grateful I didn’t speak to him in person. He looked like a broken neglected animal that hadn’t been groomed in 33 years. It reduced me to tears all day. My greatest comfort came as I held my infant granddaughter close to my heart while she slept for hours and hours. She cried every time I put her down. I cried silently as I held her while she slept.
The following night, I told my husband, “I feel so light in my chest. Have I carried this heaviness in my heart since the night of the murders? I didn’t even realize the weight of it until it was gone. I don’t know if it’s gone because I forgave him or because he’s dead. I wonder if he chose Light?”
At that moment, a tsunami of what can only be described as intense love, joy and gratitude knocked me back into a chair behind me. It was a thousand times more powerful than the way it felt when my newborn children were handed to me at their birth. I didn’t think anything could compare to that feeling. But there are no words to describe that moment adequately. I sat and quietly wept with the deepest feelings I’ve ever encountered in my life. I sat with my face in my hands until I could stand again. I felt so humbled and honored to be a part of this journey. My husband stared at me in helpless silence. “I’m going to bed. I am tired to my bones”, I said when I finally stood up to go to the bedroom.
I fell asleep quickly. It felt like I was being watched. I could sense someone standing at the doorway watching me. I could feel him, like a parent looking at a sleeping child. He came towards me, traced my nose and cheek with a fingertip as I finally slept and said, “Don’t think of it as a death. Think of it as a birth. Thank you. Thank you.”
My assignment in figure painting could be anything I wanted to paint so I chose to paint my version of Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen”. I like how it turned out. We normally use oil or acrylic but I wanted to try watercolor. Its my third time painting an assignment in water-color. I like working with it but I think I would do better if I took a water painting class.
I painted this picture of my sweet granddaughter. I didn’t use black or white paint to mix colors. She inspires me to understand the trauma imprint in our dna. I want to heal our family pathology of abuse, rape & poverty. I want to change the world for her and her sister, by healing the race wars within our ancestry.
She is the essence of all the ancestors before her. As she is growing she heals THEM in her.
Spring semester 2013, I was asked to create paintings without using any black or white to mix the colors for paint.
I couldn’t help but think, “What would my life be like without black or white’s influence?” I often feel that I walk between the space of race.
I thought of all the races that are part of my DNA. I come from a long line of open-minded lovers, maybe some weren’t given a choice. Many ancestors were on opposite sides of race wars; French, Mexican, German, African American, Native American, Middle Eastern, English, Irish, Scottish, slaves & slave owners.
I thought of the imprint of pain & misunderstanding because of the black & white mentality that cripples my heart when I feel like I don’t fit in.
I wondered if I could heal my ancestor’s pain within me.
I visualized them all, speaking of their lives & their journeys. 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 grandchildren.
Changing the world begins within…. outside of black & white.
I recently watched a couple of documentaries about Bob Marley. I am so glad I did.
For me reggae music has become an acquired taste. But I’m aligned with the energy and message of reggae.
I was in awe of Bob’s story. It’s ironic he died of skin cancer.
Bob was biracial. His mother Jamaican and mostly absent father was English. His fathers family denied him, even when he was at the height of his popularity. It is because of him that most people recognize his fathers last name.
A Jamaican woman he loved said he died of a white disease, skin cancer. Many healers believe if you don’t deal with your feelings they show up in your body as illnesses.
It made me think of the white oppression he experienced in his every day existence. I wish he could have been healed from that damage. He was such a powerhouse for love.
His songs and messages of ONE LOVE are eternal truths that still soothes those that reach towards equality and humanity.
Denouncing racism and asking for forgiveness of his victims, is not something I expected to see, even if he is on borrowed time. I am shocked.
Three months ago I went to the canyon and prayed for his sentence to be carried out.
Before then, I never thought about his execution. It seemed so far away. It didn’t seem a real possibility until he was old and gray, which is obviously the case.
An execution seems more humane than his life. I never thought I would pray for someones death. But when I learned more about his childhood I found that he has been in some sort of prison his whole life from cradle to grave.
I wasn’t praying to be vindicated so much as mercy, for who he could have been if he had a normal childhood and upbringing.
His life sentences were connected to the victims & family life sentences. We will all be doing time for the village turning a blind eye to his childhood suffering.
I am not trying to make excuses for him. I want to heal the wounds he left in my heart and the community. In order to do that I have to know his narrative. What I have learned allowed me to forgive him. I think that is why I prayed for his suffering to be eased. Death is the only way that can happen for him.
I created this art piece to remember why its important to be part of the village who watch over our children. I am willing to have uncomfortable conversations if it saves a child.
JPF’s childhood and life reminds me that ignoring someone’s pain doesn’t shield me from it.
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.