On view at Schiltkamp Gallery/Traina Center for the ArtsMarch 12-April 12 with Reception and Gallery Talk, March 22, 4-6:00
Since this piece continues to travel, it seems appropriate to review the stories of those who made it possible. Sadly, they go on being relevant as time passes.
It was conceived to prolong the voices of my community and to remind others that the feelings generated by what is experienced and/or observed do not go away but remain entrenched in our psyches and “bones”. They are in danger of re-emerging if a critical mass is reached. It seems as if those in power must use ever more force to try to keep them buried. The current situation is not so different from the past when racism was more outwardly visible. The stones represent the weight of what we carry. Kintsugi or golden joinery, used in Japan to enhance breaks in ceramics and to create an object better than new, was used here to emphasize the strength and history of humans engaged in working for social justice.
The following stories and comments were provided for this project by friends, family and acquaintances. Some asked not to be directly connected to their stories due to the personal nature of the content. I therefore am listing them in alphabetical order: Elaine Bell, Jeff Bell, Laura Cahalane, Lula Christopher, Cora McClain, Dianne Rocheleau, Mikey Walker, Jill Watts, and Sherra Wilkins.
I was one of 8 kids. I grew up in Bed-Sty. In New York. I would watch my mother go to the window and look up and down the street every time she heard a siren which was about every 5 minutes. She was always nervous. When I was 14, she got the call from the police saying they had my brother. She grabbed my hand and we went to the station as fast as we could. When we went in I saw my brother covered with blood. He was bleeding from his head and was handcuffed to a radiator. I kept saying, “What happened? What did you do to him?” The police said, “If you don’t shut up, the same thing will happen to you.” I just ran for the door and into the street. I didn’t look back. I left my mother and brother there.
Ferguson has always been a reality of my life and in my numbness and “In my internalized racism” I was beginning to buy into the notion that it was the young black men who were at fault for their butt wearing ass showing jeans, their refusal to conform, their angry, swearing, dis-respectful, nigger laced lyrics. But the reality is that the racism is just as deadly now as then and more pronounced because we told our kids that they were born into a different world in a different time and they didn’t have the same restrictions their parents and grandparents did. But our children see and live the lie and their refusal to accept it any more is a testimonial to their Ancestors leading and guiding them, their own inherited wisdom, and the teachers and leaders who have been vigilant in the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
When my son (40, black, and living with Schizophrenia) crosses the Roxbury line into Brookline to see his Doctor, he’s regularly assaulted by the Brookline police. He knows he’s being provoked; knows if he asserts his rights he will be jailed for resisting arrest. He tries to keep his sense of humor, he says, because he knows the police aren’t reasonable or very smart. When he’s accused of stealing the bicycle he is on, he tells them they are right, that he can’t afford it, it was a gift from his mom. He shows his I.D. and keeps his head down. “If you look them directly in the face they feel threatened”, he says.
Who is more irrational? The mentally ill street person who does not respond rationally to the police or the police who expect a rational or sane response from a crazy person (who is, by definition, irrational)
I’m waiting for the bus in the cold near the police station to go to class at 7PM. I’m bundled up and have my hoodie on to shield me from the cold. The canine unit comes out of the parking lot and stops at the red light. The dog is already barking at me—-or did the officer tell him to bark at me? This went on for the entire semester. I heard 75%-95% of police officers joined the academy because they were bullied at some time in their youth—-or is it the other way around? I was bullied all my life but you don’t see me shooting unarmed people at point blank range.
Dear Officer, Being poor even if white means we are part of the problem and can be targeted. However it is different for us because we can “pass” for middle class with some luck and skill——unlike our black brothers and sisters.
Two of us were sitting and talking outside on a nice summer night in front of the Mall after closing time. Some people were leaving a Club over 100 feet away. Even though we had nothing to do with them, we were made to move and were unable to sit in a public place and talk. It’s hard to believe that the same would happen to a white couple.
Dear Officer, When all you see is the color of our skin, you can forget our families, our dreams that are the same as your own, our humanity. You do have some idea or you wouldn’t be so frightened knowing that everyone tolerates injustice only so long before rising up. We have far exceeded our limits in this. As someone else once said, “Beware of those who have nothing left to lose.”
Why did you leave him out there for 4 1/2 hours before you called the ambulance?
We don’t need another Bloody Sunday. To Hell with respectability politics.
“Speak Truth To Power” “Open Your Eyes – Raise Your Voices” “Wake – UP! The Revolution is Televised” “Your Silence Will Not Protect You” Killing of Black Boys Not = to Killing White Mother’s son. Racism enslaves Everybody. Wake UP! Stand Up! Begin the Fight! “to the righteousness and victory of our struggle.”
Dear Officer, What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Maybe this is why you are killing so many of us. We have come together to support each other. We have worked hard to keep our children alive despite few jobs, poor housing, poor schools, and daily insults if we are “seen” at all. Some of us have made it to positions of power and respect only to become invisible as human beings upon leaving our oasis of safety to be targeted by you. Know that we are not only as good as you but have had to be considerably better to arrive at this point.
Elaine went to a lecture in High School where an officer was asking why they get such a bad rap when they are civil servants like firefighters. Elaine responded that firefighters don’t harass people.
When you approach citizens who don’t look, act, or think like you with military style weapons and vehicles to subdue, beat, or kill them, is it any wonder that they do not view your presence as protecting and serving them? Even those of you who chose your job with good intentions must understand the cruel mockery of a system only interested in preserving the status quo by declaring war on the majority.
The white face of power is an old face; old rich men propped up by $. Buying others will only go so far. I dream that the enforcers will see that their true interests are served by the majority; people of various shades of brown.
Interesting that the N.R.A.’s stance in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s was against the right to carry arms (before they were confident that those in charge had killed, arrested, and/or forced the leaders of the Black Power Movement to seek asylum elsewhere while now, when Whites are killing Blacks, they scream so loudly about the right to bear arms.
Upon the arrest and jailing of my son for driving while black in Florida,
I am plunged back into history
Pulled up short by an umbilical cord
From the heart not the belly
What I always said when people asked if you were my child
And now it pulls hard and tight
Wrenching me from the comforts of white
Into the everyday Hells of black and brown mothers
And all the others
Whose lives are forfeit for the pleasures of the few
And I don’t know what to do
But I am running hard, running with that bloodline right through my heart
Trying to find a way to set you apart
Knowing we need to bring them all out, not just the few.
On my son’s overnight in jail for driving while black in Florida: “Mom, there were so many guys there who weren’t going anywhere. They had nobody or their people couldn’t pay. They weren’t going to leave that place. I’m just lucky——-“
In 1978, Police followed my husband, 2 year old child and I into our own home in Brookline because they thought we were robbing it. My son as a teen was arrested while walking our dog because someone was mugged in the vicinity. I am only one person and I can share more than a few stories….I hesitate to do this because I believe we learn and grow from the past. When someone is in trouble, I call the police. They are always the first to come often putting their lives on the line. But we can and must do better. I want our children to grow up in a world where ALL lives matter.