Is Art the Way to Unite Us

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Have you ever seen a piece of art and felt as if it spoke to you, like seriously called you by your name? This week I am taking time to bring hope and compassion to the Black Lives Movement with a celebration of the visual arts.

Art in its broadest forms includes performing, fine, and language arts. Each of these provide an escape from reality. I am often mesmerized by paintings, ceramics, sculpture and photography that capture elements of the human experience. It is amazing how the work pulls me into the mind of the artist or the moment they depicted. I find myself drawing some parallel to my own identity.

The heaviness of the plight of the Black community continues to be much to bear. It is encouraging when other races reach out to share their support, giving of their time, talents, and resources to uplift the cause. While I do not generally use my platform for matters of race or politics, I thought is necessary to join the discussion and in my own way, bring hope and encouragement which is true to everything that Yes, That Girl! was created for.

“There are some topics we can’t stay silent about, human and civil rights is one of them… it is good to contribute to the cause and elevate messages that need to be heard,” says Jessi Queen, an award winning, Atlanta based Chalk Artist.

Jessi is a founding member of the Georgia Chalk Artists Guild which works to bring chalking as a performative art to festivals and special events while also encouraging others to learn about chalking.

When I learned of Jessi, whose surrealistic art form has been featured around the world, I had to find out more about her and the inspiration for a piece she shared online. It appears to be the eye of a Caucasian woman reaching out with compassion into the pain of this moment in time where people are angry, hurting and collectively crying out for justice.

"Now is a time for our voices to be heard..."

Human Events Inspire Art

A drawing in her driveway originally intended to be a demonstration piece for kids learning the craft, seemed to also speak to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Posting the piece on her Instagram page, she wrote “now is a time for our voices to be heard…” including among her hash tags, “no justice, no peace.”

Jessi felt she could uplift the message of the movement through art. “It is an eyeball on the ground that says people need to wake up and see what’s happening," she says. "I was inspired by a quote by Toni Morrison that says, 'this is precisely the time when artists go to work.'

Tempers are Flaring, Hearts are Hurting, We are Tired

With the plight of great social injustices taking place alongside a global pandemic, there is a lot of anxiety. Tempers are flaring, hearts are hurting, people are dying and there is a multitude of confusion among law makers and politicians in the midst of hotly debated election season.

I saw another post that echos how I feel right now. I do not know the woman in the photo to the right, but when I saw this post come up during the recent protests in Georgia, I wanted to share it. I felt myself becoming enraged as I scrolled my social pages, so much so that I had to pull myself away from it, take a deep breath and focus on the positive messages.

I am very much encouraged by the countless voices in business and marketplace who are taking bold leaps forward to voice their concern and support for the African-American community and put positive action behind the pursuit for justice and peace in our world. Hopefully their messages are sincere, time will tell.

It is truly sad that that it took the horrific injustices of the violent death of so many blacks, men in particular in recent times, to bubble up the conversation of race in America, shedding a much needed albeit painful light on the plight of civil and human rights.

The Heart of America is Awakening

Despite the harsh reality we find ourselves in today, there are blessings happening in the form of openness of human expression; many people are becoming more welcoming and extending themselves to understand and embrace each other. We are having the hard conversations, talking and listening to really hear each other. The heart of America is awakening.

A Passion for Life and the Human Experience

Jessi creates with a passion for life and a focus on the human experience. I love the way she incorporates nature into most of her work. She has been featured in popular events such Music Midtown in Atlanta, Best of Show in Knoxville, TN and Chalking in Blumberg Germany.

“If creating art is your way to show support, or talking about the need to vote or other messages of how we can help, we should come together as a community and stand up for what’s right,” she says.

Healing Through Art & Divine Inspiration

Jessi and her husband Zachary recently joined in the efforts of Camp Sunshine, a summer camp for kids living with cancer or who are in remission, to provide art supplies and tutorial videos for a virtual camp this summer. They packaged over a hundred boxes of chalk art tools for distribution to the campers.

My connection with Jessi was divinely inspired,

talking with her about Camp Sunshine brought to mind my late son Christopher who passed away in 2007 from Leukemia. Yes, That Girl! started as a result of me searching for my own healing through writing and music. I soon learned that my desire to find meaning and purpose in my own life sparked inspiration to others.

"Creative arts literally saved my life."

Creative Arts literally saved my life. My work began touching people in ways I could not have imagined or ever intended. I realized that by finding my healing through music, I could help others heal who were grieving.

My son did not have Camp Sunshine, and my heart won't let me ponder over the difference such a beautiful experience may have added to his short time with us. I am grateful for places like Camp Sunshine that give healing kids a place to just be a kid and people like Jessi and her husband for sharing their talents to help families going through hard times in life.

Christopher wanted to be an attorney and a voice for change. Had he lived I am sure he would be marching alongside the masses fighting for justice.

I share our story in "Dear Chris, Conversations with My Son," a book I wrote in his honor to support the "Dear Chris Scholarship," for young black men overcoming hardship and pursuing an education in the field of Law.

Loosing Christopher was the hardest thing I have ever endured, but it made me the woman I am today, one with passion and a deep desire to encourage and inspire others. May our living not be in vain.

The Art of Music

Music is my most treasured creative artistic expression, and one of my favorite creators is the incomparable American Singer-Songwriter, Mariah Carey.

I love her so much that I patterned my vocal training to her early works. Her voice is a powerful as the lyrics she pens to her songs.

When I wrote this post I could clearly hear her singing, one of her greatest hits, "There's Got to Be a Way," where she asks "couldn't we just love each other? Isn't there enough to share?" One of my favorites, this song should be an anthem for today.

"There’s got to be a way to connect this world today.
Come together to relieve the pain.
There’s got to be a way To unite this human race and together we’ll bring on a change."

- Mariah Carey

These are some really hard times for everyone. With so much going on in our world it is my hope that we can find a way through it all to unite. We can’t solve all the social ills of the world as individuals but when we come together collectively through art and formal expressions of love, we can come closer to becoming a better world.

#hopeandunity #blacklivesmatter #blm #chalkart #jessiqueen #jessiqueenart #gachalkartists

Valerie Winrow is an author and a women’s lifestyle writer/blogger with focused content on health, wellness, and finance. Her “Yes, I'm That Girl!” blog and "Yes, That Girl!" podcast, shares inspirational stories and anecdotes to encourage others to live a life of purpose.

Check out Valerie's interview with Jessi Queen on the “Yes, That Girl!” podcast on Anchor for more inspiration and encouragement for your daily living. Follow Valerie online @yesimthatgirlblog on Instagram, and @yesthatgirl on Facebook and Twitter.

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