Saturday, October 24, 2015

Every 28 Hours: Creating a Performance for Ferguson

Ferguson’s Aftermath: Art and Unity in light of Mike Brown- Joe Wilson, Jr.

My time spent in Ferguson has been an unforgettable moment in my life. I have met some of the most generous and extraordinary people of diverse races, creeds, and socio-economic backgrounds. These individuals share a common belief that what happened on August 9, 2014, was an egregious travesty of justice, and an absence of common decency and humanity. An unarmed, African-American teenager was shot by a police officer. His dead, uncovered body was left in the middle of a street in his neighborhood as both young and old stared in disbelief. Michael Brown’s mother pleaded to make contact with her dead son. Yet, for four hours, she watched his body bleed onto the ground on a hot, summer day. After his body was finally removed, Mike Brown's blood was baked into the hot asphalt, making it impossible to wash away. The city had to literally remove the blood soaked pavement from the street! This place still and will forever exist as a memorial to this young man. Flowers and teddy bears rest within the narrow, empty sliver of concrete where this young man’s blood ran.

Some community members I met on this trip immediately assembled to bear witness to what was happening in Ferguson. Many of these folks were artists who came armed with art supplies. They administered council to community youth by providing them with sketch paper and markers, hoping to offer children with ways to cope with this traumatic scene. I heard about a very young child around the age of three who wrote the word “Justice,” but with the “J” spelled backwards. I thought: “out of the mouths of babes,” as the old folks would say. Here was a child who had been to funerals before his first school field trip.

Like Mike Brown’s blood on the hot asphalt, activist art making is “baking into” this political and social justice movement. Artists insert themselves as a critical component of this community’s response to the tragedy. In Ferguson, like so many communities of color, the choice to remain silent is a mode of self-preservation. Preserving the status quo was safer than unleashing their voices of discontent. But artists, civic leaders, concerned citizens, and like-minded police officers are on a quest to seek justice and fundamentally change the conversation from victim blaming to critical, communal self-evaluation. The Ferguson Movement demands accountability by those in power, while creating a space for people to find common ground.

The movement also demands an end to the years of silence that has maintained those in power and the status quo, while acknowledging that the community itself is responsible for creating a culture of silence. Local artists are providing a mechanism for everyone to speak because making art is a process that bears witness to our humanity. Through compassion and imagination, artists provide safe spaces for the purpose of building consensus. Creativity and empathy are slowly helping to create an environment that reflects of the dreams and desires of each and every individual in this region.

- See more at: http://howlround.com/every-28-hours-creating-a-performance-for-ferguson#sthash.AbsCHSgZ.dpuf

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