"We Hear You" // A Reflection on Charlottesville
These three simple, powerful words came from a middle schooler who recently participated in ARTE’s two-week arts collaboration with the New York Urban League. During the program, participants learned about the history of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and focused in on the racial injustice and discrimination that permeates our society. Students shared their lived experiences while examining the root causes of human rights violations, such as racial discrimination.
Capturing the essence of our workshop, this particular student gracefully shared why she had included those words as the center of her art work, “There is a lot of pain and violence, and sometimes it feels that nothing will even change. Even though people might feel invisible, this is a reminder that their voices are not forgotten.”
In hearing her words and facilitating this workshop, we realized that, now more than ever, we need to continue to amplify the voices of young leaders of color.
The repugnant and despicable violence that occurred in Charlottesville just nine days ago fell during the middle of this workshop. People across the country were aghast by the overt and proud display of Nazi ideology, white supremacy, and violent intimidation that resulted in an act of domestic terrorism. People were also deeply hurt and angered that the leader of their own government was slow to condemn the hatred and white supremacy that still lies at the core of and permeates our country. An entire governmental agency resigned, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities; the first White House department to do so.
As many of us, scramble and seek out the courage needed to make sense of this all, it is easy for us to overlook the dire effects of these racist attacks and how they affect our young people. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, in speaking with students, I felt a sense of despair. “Things have always been this way, and nothing’s going to change.” “What good will anything do?” The truth is our children must navigate their way through a legacy that has been bestowed upon them: one ridden with human rights violations, the trauma of white supremacy, and deep feelings of hopelessness.
However, if there is one thing that has been repeatedly proven throughout all of our work it is that our students are incredibly resilient. As evidence of this, in spite of any feelings of despair, we saw these incredible young people produce powerful and meaningful pieces of art sharing their voice. Resolute and steadfast, our students demonstrated what they had learned about racial discrimination, as well as their talents, with their communities in completing these thoughtful pieces of art.
This is the time, now more than ever, that young people, particularly young people of color, can and will recognize their strengths and agency to make change. ARTE does not accept living in a world where racism is perpetuated and silence is accepted. ARTE will work harder to build a future where young people can realize the best parts of themselves, building a future free of hate, stigmatization, and full of diversity. We recognize that we can not and will not do this alone. We honor the continuing work of our peers in our community. Through education, we will continue to dismantle the white supremacy that destroys the very fabric of our society.
Lastly, through creativity, love, and compassion we will erect new monuments. Monuments that do not look to a brutal and destructive past, but that rather look towards a just and promising future, a future in which, we hope and believe, young people of the future will always be at the forefront.
In loving resistance,
Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE)