Well over a year ago I watched a Netflix documentary on the late, great, Nina Simone. The documentary itself was not very special, but Nina Simone was and is. A particular interview she gave struck a cord burried within me and has almost haunted me ever since. In this interview she states that the the Artist's Duty is to reflect his/her time in order to help mold the world around us... Well shit. That's a lot to live up to, and it would be way easier to pretend I never saw her interview and that it did not make an impression on me. But I did, and it has.
My personal aim as an artist, and as a person really, is to help bring light, color and happiness into other peoples lives. It is my nature to encourage peace and positivity. It is against everything in me to willingly engage in conflict, to debate or to even share my own personal beliefs. I have always understood, accepted, and respected that we are all different and have diverse backgrounds and convictions. I can usually see wisdom and merit in various sides of arguments. Therefor, politics is something I have always loathed and avoided. I never felt particularly qualified to engage in "political issues", and I'm mostly turned off by the whole thing. I mean, I'm just a normal, real person trying to get by in my daily life. "Politics" has seemed pretty foreign and usually out of touch with general reality; it's loud, tumultuous, and obnoxious (I am aware I am generalizing and that there are MANY people who fight the true and heroic political fight, I am just sharing and admitting to my perspective).
However... these are no ordinary times, and this is no longer a conversation about politics. This is about humanity and common decency. It's about our future as a country and what the world will look like 10 years from now. Every single tiny voice really does ACTUALLY matter, in a way that it hasn't in MY conscious lifetime. We are in the midst of a momentous time in history and future generations all over the world will reflect on our choices and movements as a society. I can not in good conscious take a passive seat. I must find a way to be active and involved in our times while also staying true to myself as a person and artist. So how do I marry two incredibly opposite ideas? How does a passive people pleaser engage in such an offensive and divisive reality?
I've been wrestling with this for a while now, and I am hopeful that I have found some ways to be engaged and active that make sense to me. While I do not identify as "liberal" or a "die hard feminist" in the "I get offended at men holding doors for me" kind of way, I am a woman who loves other women, as well as people with various skin colors and cultures, and levels of intellectual ability. So as a HUMAN I am outraged by who has been elected as president of the United States of America. This so called greatest country on earth, the country my grandfather fled to in order to escape a dictator, the place he valued so greatly he was willing to leave his young pregnant wife behind in order to begin a new life completely from scratch. Pop-pop purposefully chose to leave his entire family, learn a new language, retake all of his medical exams and training in order to live in this country and eventually become a citizen so that he could have freedom and offer more opportunities to his children. While I miss him now more than ever, because nothing comforts me more than his voice and chuckle, I am relieved he wont witness next week's inauguration.
So my point is, now that this has become less about political parties and policies, and more about overall humanity, I DO feel qualified to be engaged in the conversation. I do feel that my perspective has relevance, so expressing that perspective does not feel like a stretch or forced. And the way I have always been most comfortable expressing my opinion, is in the defense of others. As the oldest of 5, I have always taken my role of big sister very seriously. My siblings are my greatest loves and anyone who harms them is screwed. So now I look to the masses of people who are being offended, discriminated, and downright tormented and terrified by our FUTURE LEADER as my siblings who I want to help protect.
Next Saturday I will be marching with over 100,000 people onto Washington. I am honestly very nervous and a little scared, but mostly energized because I know I will be actively participating in one of the largest peaceful protests in our country's history. I am not marching for myself. I am marching for my "siblings". I am marching for the scared and the voiceless. I am marching for my 18 year old little sister who has autism, doesn't have "normal" speech, wears diapers and is 100% dependent on my family. I have flashes of Trump's despicable mockery of the disabled reporter and I feel ill. I am marching for my grandmother who waited 6 months to join her husband in America. She was barely 20, had a young son in tow, and was 8 months pregnant when she finally immigrated. She spoke no English, but with Pop-pop's help, she went to Harvard, took phonetic notes, translated them into English every night and eventually graduated with honors (again, all while pregnant). I am marching for the LGBT community who somehow still don't have all the basic human rights and opportunities they deserve from "the land of the free". I am marching for those without healthcare or the means to obtain what they need for survival.
I've also started a new body of work that is inspired by my reflection on our times. While my work will doubtfully ever be dark, angry, or depressing, I hope that these new pieces help uplift those who feel oppressed. These new pieces aim to empower and help viewers find inner strength. There is still so much beauty in this world of ours, as well as in the people around us. My hope for our country is that we use this scary time as what finally brings us truly together; I hope to finally be deeply united in core human values once we come out on the other side of this momentous time. It might be a long shot, but I am present and engaged and I will do what I can to support my brothers and sisters.