Updated: Oct 1, 2020
This past week ISSA held our very first Expression of Hope event. We helped create a space where the black community had a platform to have their voices be heard and spread their message through interactive murals, spoken word, dance, and other artistic expressions. The purpose was to stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters and create a unique dialogue towards a more hopeful and equitable future. To kick off the evening we had our very own member, Scalz, DJing in the Boston Commons to set the tone and draw in a crowd with some groovy tunes that all ages could get down to! The first half of this event really captured the celebration of hope for what an equitable future could look like.
The uplifting music travelled through the park and drew in a crowd of various onlookers who were probably curious why there was a voter registration booth (we got 10 people to register!), a tarp covered in canvases and paints, and such a bubbly group of people gathered.
Interactive murals lined the walkways in the common, germ-x and paint pens were readily available, and attendees were guided to write their name in support of peaceful protest. We had two images of hands, one for Justice and one was for Peace. Our guests artists Edwin Frias, Jessica Kelsey designed & donated their time to construct these awesome murals, and wrote the names of the lives lost on a strong mural to represent that justice has not been served. On the other hand, we wrote positive affirmations for a better future as well as our names in solidarity that we will continue to love and support the black community on their journey to healing and reparations.
We also had Kori Thomas design a piece called "Change the Future" that depicted a message to continue cultivating our youth and empowering them to know that they can always make a difference. This piece was then donated to the Boys & Girls club in Lowell that they took with open arms! These murals were a key part in starting the conversation with newcomers on who ISSA Movement is as an organization and why we stand with the Black Lives Matter Movement.
As a sustainability organization we realize that you cannot have environmental sustainability without racial equality. For instance: many environmental hazards such as landfills and waste sites are an environmental justice issues. They are typically placed in low income and minority communities that do not have the resources to fight them. Environmental justice acknowledges how privilege, power, & oppression are integral to our understanding of how we are impacted by climate change and our environment. Exploring the way that global warming harms low income communities is critical to understanding how our fight must be won. It is our responsibility to stand with the black community and use our voice to create a sustainable future together.
The second half of the evening, the event began to shift gears. We were honored to have 11 incredible black speakers, songwriters, poets, and dancers take the stage to express their grief with the injustice in the police system. They shared with the ever-growing crowd their heart wrenching stories. From stories of being wrongfully accused and incarcerated due to workplace disputes and losing lifetime dreams of competing at the Olympics, to the lack of representation in musical careers despite most common music and culture being created by black artists, to heart breaking poem after poem about cultural appropriation, the struggles of a black mother, the strength of the disenfranchised black LGTBQ, and an outstanding performance from a young dancer, all of these speakers and artists had a deep and powerful story to tell.
To wrap up the night we had a projection mapped vigil designed by visual artists David Schunemann and Evan Lukash-Harrison where the names of the victims of police brutality were projected onto an oak tree on the park. Candles were handed out and burned for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time it took for an officer to kneel on George Floyd’s neck and take his life. We wrapped up the night with a projection showed a slideshow of peaceful protests and events that have cumulatively been leading to meaningful change. Thank you to all of you who attended the event, and we want to encourage you all now to take action! This fight is not over yet. To register to vote in, or to find more of your voter information, click here.