I am in Los Angeles right now, I flew in yesterday. I am here to take in some sights, but I am mostly here to participate in the Manifest:Justice Pop-up exhibit.
I have thus far been delighted by the beauty and hospitality I’ve encountered (I honestly wasn’t expecting that, Los Angeles,) and so I am at once filled with a quiet peace, yet also conscious of the gross injustice, the white hot rage, the turmoil that is still going on across the country.
What will we call now, in years to come? Which name will we attach to this and make it synonymous with the moment? Stonewall. Watergate. Right now might be “Ferguson”, but it’s looking like Baltimore is shaping up even stranger, even bigger, even angrier.
It seems out of touch and self-serving to remark too much on the quieter, nice things I am encountering right now in the face of this disaster. My social media lists right now jolt between the perilous, the awful, the tragic; then suddenly to someone’s curated artistic lifestyle feed. A meadow with a floral headdress in gauzy twilight.
But it’s also easy to be crushed under the weight of all this, particularly when it is — after all — not your community and not your story. That’s the cruncher, I think. The sinking, ashamed feeling of: if I can take the time to see so much beauty, and appreciate it so intensely, doesn’t that out me as not truly, deeply, completely effected by the chaos? Am I in fact a privileged being experiencing such luxuries as travel and jaywalking without an arrest?
Probably. So how to use that privilege for good, not self-serving things?
At no point am I trying to commandeer the story — it’s another reason I struggled so much with the open call as I mentioned before. I want to serve that story, help tell that story, because the more people we can get telling that story — and the different-er their backgrounds — the more people will hear that story. But I know it isn’t my story, and the best people to tell that story are the people who are experiencing it.
But it also doesn’t get one off the hook. You still owe that story your attention. Perhaps all the more because it is NOT your story, and it is bigger than any story you’ve yet encountered, for it spans so many generations before your story began. You need to listen to it. You need to listen and listen and listen and learn all you can from it.