From A Worldwide Movement, To A Personal Mission
A year ago today I attended my first Black Lives Matter march, where, much to my surprise, my journey towards creative activism was born. Armed with my camera, I went to that march desperate to find a way to use my privilege and talents to be an ally. I left with so much more. The BLM marches I attended, and the photo essay that came out of them, inspired me in ways I never expected. They unearthed a passion that I had no idea was inside of me. A desire to use my art to fight for causes that matter to me. To be an ally and tell the stories of marginalized communities that are so often overlooked or ignored. These marches showed me that I don't just want to be an artist, but a creative activist too. I realized that I had a real passion for this art, and felt compelled to create it. I have ideas floating around in my brain for future projects, and am in the beginning stages of one on addiction and recovery right now. There are so many stories I want to tell, but for now, I want to share the project that started it all; the story of children raising their voices to fight for racial justice and equality in America.
Children Of The Movement: A Black Lives Matter Story
"A day of peace
A day of pride
A day of justice
We have been denied
When a man can live
And a child can play
We'll never get to heaven
Till we reach that day...
Let the new day dawn
Oh, Lord, I pray
We'll never get to heaven
Till we reach that day"
Ragtime: The Musical
In the summer of 2020, sparked by both the increasing presence of white supremacy groups and the police shootings of George Floyd and other black individuals, America faced a reckoning over its ever present issues with racial inequality and systemic racism. A crisis that dates back to the earliest days of America's history, and still exists to this day, it has been largely ignored by the majority of society for decades. Over and over this issue has been swept under the rug, so as not to tarnish the image of "The American Dream", or the country's reputation as "The Land Of The Free", where there is "liberty and justice for all". And while the "Black Lives Matter" movement has been steadily growing over the past 10 years, and more inequalities recognized, the urgency for change has never truly been felt on a large scale. But all of this changed with one video that went viral in May of 2020. One video of a man accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill, yet not proven to be guilty or actively doing anything wrong. One video of a grown black man calling out for his mother and pleading for his life while a white cop pinned him down with a knee on his neck, slowly suffocating him to death. This video was a tipping point. George Floyd's murder an erupting volcano. It enraged a nation, and made it acknowledge the harsh reality of being black in America. The rug had finally been pulled back. And with tens of thousands of people showing up at protests nationwide, calling for an end to this injustice, the Country saw that change was necessary. That even though it will take nationwide commitment, years of hard work, and major systemic changes, we need to make life for black Americans infinitely better. We can rewrite the book. We can start anew. We can create a new narrative. A new beginning for race relations, inequality, and the black experience in the United States.
As an artist living through this moment in my country's history I felt a want to capture the Black Lives Matter movement, and this crucial new beginning. But more so, I felt a need. As a privileged upper middle class white girl I couldn't understand how black Americans were feeling, or how difficult their lives are, and I never will. But I couldn't sit back and do nothing. I had to find a way to raise my voice, stand up for what is right, and be an ally. And doing that through my photography was the only way I knew how. Using my photographic eye to create images that told this story, encouraged change, and more importantly, spread hope, was something I had to do.
Before I attended my first march I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to tell this story. I didn't want to force anything. I didn't want to try too hard. I wanted it to come about naturally. To organically create raw and honest photos that would really bring to life the need for equality and a new beginning. Images that shared a unique point of view that spoke to both my eyes, and my heart.
About 30 minutes into that first march, much to my surprise, the story I wanted to tell became crystal clear. It wasn't at all what I had expected to focus on, but it was what grabbed me. What invigorated and excited me. What moved me. It was the story I was meant to tell. It was the story of a new generation of activists who were just beginning to use their voices for good. Who were fighting for justice and change and spreading the message that it was time to start over. It was time to begin again, and I was watching that beginning unfold.
This new generation was just that, they were children. And at the various marches I attended there were so many of them. And I don't mean just preteens and teens, but little kids. And they weren't just there, they were actively engaged. They truly were activists. They were marching, chanting, giving speeches, and carrying signs they had clearly made themselves. Signs written in crayon and marker, some with backwards letters, spelling errors, and messy drawings. It was inspiring, and for some reason those imperfect signs made their presence even more powerful. To these kids, even those so young they didn't know how to spell, this problem in America is so obvious. And in their innocent eyes, the answer is so clear; "stop hurting black people", "treat everyone the same", "be nice to black friends like friends".
My heart drew me to these kids, and the messages they were spreading. I was moved and inspired by them. And as an artist, I couldn't stop taking their pictures. It was so clear to me that this was the story I wanted to tell about this moment in history. I wanted to tell the story of how racial injustice in our country is so obvious that even the youngest members of our society see it. And more importantly, they want to change it. They are our future. They are our hope. Hope
for a new beginning. Hope for a world full of a lot less hate and injustice, and a lot more love. And if they could make me see this, maybe through my photos they could make others see it too. Maybe they could open up the eyes of those who don't acknowledge this problem, challenge the thoughts of a racist, or inspire others to speak up and advocate for change. Maybe they will write our new story. And maybe, just maybe, they could help create the nationwide "army" this country needs to start anew, and change what it means to be black in America.