Week 1, Day 3: ArtWorks Creative Writing/Digital Storytelling Cohort

It’s the end of week 1, day 3, of the ArtWorks Creative Writing/Digital Storytelling Cohort. It’s been a tough week and it’s hard for me to write about it because I don’t feel equipped to speak, at least not in a meaningful and helpful way. I just want to shout.

When the ArtWorks program began, I wanted my interns to think about crisis and how we can/should respond to it.

Day 1 we read “In Praises of Latin Night at the Queer Club” by Justin Torres. In Torres’ moving response to the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, he wrote, “The only imperative is to be transformed, transfigured in the disco light. To lighten, loosen, see yourself reflected in the beauty of others. You didn’t come here to be a martyr, you came to live, papi. To live, mamacita. To live, hijos. To live, mariposas.”

Since the program began, terrorists have attacked and killed hundreds of people at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, an upscale restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh and a shopping center in Bagdad, where 232 people lost their lives. A half an hour ago, 32 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Balad, Iraq.

Since the program began, 2 black men killed by white cops. Cops acquitted of killing black men. The latest in a seemingly endless stream of black men killed by white cops. Last night, a sniper (or snipers) killed 5 cops from an elevated parking lot in Dallas during a peaceful protest and march against against police violence.

I try to lighten, to loosen, but there’s none of that. Not today. Not in America. Not in the world.

This morning I read a poem written by one of my student interns.

“My disability has been one long ride,” he wrote. “I’ve had it since birth and it still affects me today. I started in a wheelchair, I still remember being five years old, my little siblings fighting over which one of them was going to push me in the chair. I still remember feeling like the biggest kid at circle time in kindergarten because the chair would take up so much space…” (Read the full poem here.)

When I look at the faces of my student interns, I see the faces of those murdered at the nightclub, in Bagdad, in Baton Rouge. In the faces of black men killed by white cops. I see their possible future faces reflected back at me on my  wall. The imperative American culture is death. Mariposas transformed and transfigured, martyred, live on Facebook.

I want my interns to take up so much space. To feel like the biggest kids in the circle. To protect them from the violence that encircles them. From the violence that will come, is coming, for them.


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