In the wake of George Floyd’s death, I’m still picking up the pieces of my reaction, my emotions, and my path forward.
Chloe and I had hard conversations where I heard my lips lay bare some raw feelings I didn’t know were inside me. Among them was the visceral response I had to the word “complicit” that flooded my feed. What I heard was: unless I gave every spare moment to protest, read every book on racism, and dedicated every social media post to injustice, I would never be seen by some as anything more than a murderer. In me, rather than inspiring to action, that word entrenched me in inaction because I felt that whatever I could do would never be seen as enough in they eyes of those who were hurting. So I chose to remain privately supportive.
Today, I’m grateful to a couple social media activists whose words changed my choice. Particularly this tweet:
Resistance is NOT a one lane highway. Maybe your lane is protesting, maybe your lane is organizing, maybe your lane is counseling, maybe your lane is art activism, maybe your lane is surviving the day.
Do NOT feel guilty for not occupying every lane. We need all of them.@Lindss_tastic
I appreciate the invitation to bring what I can at this time and let go of the notion of perfection that so often discourages us from contributing. Today, I opt for something rather than nothing.
A number of months ago, I was commissioned for some artwork to advertise a concert featuring several African spirituals. My visual approach was bold, and I knew it. In the end, we felt it too evocative for the tone of the concert and it never saw the light of day.
The song Let Me Fly is a plea for deliverance by flight — a miracle — perhaps the implausible, last-resort request of an enslaved person who has tried every other means of escape. You may even hear in the lyrics a plea for deliverance by death, a harrowing request of the desperate. Taken in a modern context, I hear the defeated words of someone beaten down by a looming force, “Can you just let me fly? Cut the tether and let me spread my wings?”
I hoped that the image would similarly tell different stories at different times. You might see a man in worshipful supplication, praying that very prayer, “Let me fly.” Or he’s in a state of fear, of surrender to an authority who may or may not value his life — and there’s just no way to know.
Black Lives Matter. And more than the right to not be killed in the streets, I believe in black lives’ right to take flight.