The Spear of Accountability; A conversation about healing through Art
Being black in America is its own level of trauma. Every trauma is collectively added to the existing trauma. When there is a senseless murder, we barely have the space to grieve before there are other assaults on our existence in addition to the “normal” often daily micro aggressions.
My son expressed himself through art. We all saw and felt his pain with this piece, Alfredo aka My Execution Might Be Televised. It is a stark harsh painful reality.
And then there was a shift…
The next piece I called, The Spear of Accountability.
That piece was larger than life and colorful. As a mom I see various iterations of him. Both black men have big hair. But in this time of the Rona the mask/face covering can make a statement. This piece said MY COLOR IS NOT A CRIME on the mask. I watched this piece grow. In the first draft the man was holding a placard and it said HOW MANY IS ENOUGH. His hands were big the colors he chose for the kimono the man was wearing were bold. I love the mix of culture that is my son. I could see his love of Japanese culture and how well he states his truth via art. He is often silent and is constantly in a state of astute observation and study. Since birth he has been a silent observer.
I knew he did not like the placard. People came through all day. I was there twice. My mother and niece joined me the 2nd time. We observed how the myriad of artists bonded over paint brushes and colors. I watched each of them shed some pain as each piece grew or progressed. I celebrated watching him/them being interviewed. The overall feeling of community, the people (often elders of all ethnicities) in the neighborhood stopping to watch and talk.
There was deep connection and gratitude. It was healing for all involved.
But the placard…. It remained a chalk outline while the rest of the piece seemed complete. I knew he was not happy with it. It did not say what HE needed it to say. He sketched. She showed me. I silently observed that IT (the mural) therefore HE was not complete… And then... he got rid of the placard and made it a spear! AND etched into the blade was ACCOUNTABILTY.
I was literally in tears once I read that word. It sums up the whole damn situation. Who is accountable? Why aren’t killers accountable? #dropsmic
Sule had moved from accepting a stark reality to standing in his power. He went from...
My execution might be televised (is a song lyric from a Freddie Gibbs song) TO
My color is not a crime TO
How many is enough TO
The spear of accountability
The story did not end there. There were some interactions that ended with a few selected pieces being censored, edited, painted over, vandalized, and/or outright STOLEN.
The spear of accountability was one of the pieces that was mostly painted over. I was beyond incensed and ready to start war. Don’t mess with my children!!! Fortunately, I have an amazing village of people to let me scream, holler, cry and plan.
Fast forward. Sule has found his tribe of artists (Soho Renaissance Factory). Some artists attempted to repaint The Spear of Accountability. Sule painted over their attempt at restoration, put a place holder calling on people NOT to censor artists. He/they then started negotiations with people on next steps, products, art show, commissioned art…
Using our respective villages, we get the support and resources to move forward powerfully. Full circle is our healing, whether we heal alone or in community.
He ultimately painted it AGAIN even better! He was not completely pleased with the end of the original piece and he gave himself permission to do it again. He did such a good job The Spear of Accountability was stolen. YUP. He has since renamed it THE LOST SAMARAI because of that. Oh humanity. Do better.
The lotus flower emerges in full bloom from MUD. And still he rises. He had not painted in YEARS. At the time of this post he has more works of art around NYC than I can count and the original piece Alfredo is on exhibit at the National Art Club. He has done more pieces than I can count now. NY1, NPR, NYTimes, Verge, so much has come from his pain and our collective desire to heal. He has several pieces in a book as well. I got my autographed copy from his as a gift. I am proud of him and all of these artists.
Well ain’t that a lesson!
WE claim our power.
WE write OR draw our story.
What is your process? How are you accountable?