“I refuse use to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Time and again our society seems to go through a period of turmoil following an abuse of power resulting in the loss of a life…a black life.   Police brutality, and systemic racism needs to end.  We shouldn’t still be needing to talk about this.  Following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop while fellow cops watched and did nothing, I wept, was outraged, angry, sad, horrified….emotions that most of us nationwide shared.  There were protests across the country, demanding reform and a complete overhaul of the system of inequality.  People and businesses are declaring their allegiance to the Black Lives Matter movement, the word is spreading, the movement growing and the voice for change is louder than it has ever been.

Yet like many people, despite all of this, I have felt powerless and a little aimless.  I have wanted to do something more than passively posting an image saying that I agree with the need for change.  I wanted to show solidarity, but I wanted to make a more significant impact.  I struggled.  I tried to connect my own (priveleged) existence to the challenges faced by anyone who isn’t white, (but especially black people).  I tried to empathize.  but i cannot empathize because I really have no idea.  I thought about black friends i have and eventually my thoughts settled on the man that I proudly refer to as my african brother.  Although he only lived with us for a short time when i was VERY young, he was impactful on my life at a time when my brain was first starting to form, connect and resolve differences.  Now as an adult, I continue to have a relationship with him (thanks Facebook), and I have a greater awareness of what his blackness must have meant, living here in Kansas in the 70s. Although his black skin was never a factor to me in how I thought of him, his black skin most certainly was a factor to him in how he existed in our town.  I ended up sharing a bit about Asante on our instagram account (you can read that complete post here, if you want.).

Everyone has a story, has humanity, and should have basic human rights.  After thinking about Asante and HIS life, an idea started to evolve.  I decided that i wanted to use the Bracker’s Instagram account to share stories of black artists…their work, their lives…because they all matter.  Bracker’s don’t have a huge following, but I can still use my voice and that platform to elevate and educate.  In fact, I believe it is both my obligation AND my privilege to be in a position to do so.  My post about Asante, I decided, would kick off an ongoing mission and commitment to education.  I shared this plan with my staff and I was thrilled to find that they all were in agreement and in support of my idea.  All of us here have been researching, learning and sharing.  We have not been hashtagging these posts, because this is not about drawing attention to Bracker’s, its about sharing the work and stories of people that may be unknown to our followers.  At some point in the future, I may go back and tag them for the purpose of being able to post a permanent gallery as a resource for others.  For now, we are all simply making a daily effort to continue to put the attention where it needs to be.

  • My hope in doing this is to quietly set an example of a small thing we all can do.  All those small things add up.
  • My hope is that these posts will be shared by our friends and followers (many of you are doing this!) and the words and work will spread organically.
  • My hope is that other accounts, perhaps with larger followings, will also begin to share stories, and images of people of color.
  • My hope is that as a society we can start to remember, recapture & respect the humanity in us all.
  • My hope is that we can all work together doing many many small things that will build up to bigger things that can change the trajectory of our society.

Yes I continue to be a wide-eyed optimist and idealist.  I see the good in everyone, I look for the silver linings, I try hard to continue to be positive.  I find inspiration in the quote from Dr. King at the top of this post and a similar one from Anne Frank:

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.

Today is Juneteenth, a holiday that dates back to the 1930s, celebrated to commemorate emanicpation in the US. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.  Of course, i would have hoped that in over 150 years, we would have come farther than we are now.  There is still so much work to do.  But i do feel that even in the current climate of what i can only describe as SHEER AWFULNESS, that we *should* pause and celebrate that first step.

A couple of the artists we have already featured are engaged in making work that directly references slavery and abolition and the continued struggles felt as a result of the US Antebellum era of slavery, Sonya Clark, Yinka Orafidiya (By the way, the “Freedom Cups” featured at the top of this are the work of Orafidiya.  They reference the quilts of the underground railroad, and they might be the most impactful cup i have ever seen) and on Tuesday, Dave Sturm posted about Dave the Potter, aka Dave the Slave.  Later today, our instagram will feature the work of an artist whose work reflects her African roots in a really inspiring way.  I can’t wait to share her story. She’s been a friend of mine for several years now and we served together on the NCECA board for my last year.  She came in yesterday (She’s also the resident artist at our local art center, so she’s living in Lawrence!) and the two of us sat down in the back to talk about some NCECA stuff. She sat on the terra blanc and i sat on Earthenware red.  (I found that humorous because SHE works in red clay.) Of course our conversation meandered into a variety of topics and we both decided that we could solve a number of the worlds problems through conversations while sitting on a pallets of clay.  That made me think of Rob Lugo and the teapots he made with images of people on opposite sides of controversial issues.  He said that he felt that if two people could just sit down over a cup of tea and have a conversation, that we would all find out that we aren’t that different from one another.

This has been a long post, with no pictures, (though i thought about adding some).  If you’re still reading, then you are probably the type of person who is likely to take this suggestion:

Today, in honor of Juneteenth, I encourage you to find someone different from you, and sit down to have a conversation.  Find out about their life, learn about your differences and your similarities, and let’s all work together to make our country a better place.  Then write about it.  Spread the joy of community and expanded horizons.

Also, be sure to watch our instagram/facebook later today for my post about Ashlyn.  I’m excited to share her life and art with you all, and watch for continued posts about people of color.  It is my -no, it is BRACKER’S committment to use our voice to continue highlighting the work of artists of color.