Susan Singer

Own a piece of history 

What can a person do to help when the world is turning upside down faster than anyone can begin to catch it? When a worldwide pandemic has caused 100,000's of deaths, forced businesses to shut down, economies to topple, and people to stay home for months? When the death of a black man at the hands of a policeman causes race riots and protests and demonstrations aimed at ending racial injustice? When you haven't been able to see friends and family in months? When you're feeling helpless and frustrated and desperate to make a difference?

If you're an artist, you do what Toni Morrison writes:

"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak; we write; we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” 

One of my attempts to help our civilization heal is this image that is inspired by the protests of thousands of people who have taken their message to the very statues which are so offensive to them: the monuments to Confederate Generals on Monument Ave in Richmond, VA, the capitol of the Confederacy. These brave and brilliant protesters have started writing their messages of despair, hatred, love and hope on the base of the statues. In so doing, the grounds around the statues have become shrines to the Black Lives Matter movement and a place where people gather to honor and protest black lives lost to police violence and to insist on societal changes so these deaths stop happening.

This image is of the Lee Monument, the largest and most imposing of the Confederate statues. It is from the first days of the protests when people had only just started spray painting their feelings and demands on the base. Now, a couple of weeks later, there is almost no cement visible anymore - just layer upon layer of paint. The grounds surrounding the statue have become a place where people gather to sing and dance and protest and learn and advocate and express and build community. Night times there are different - the police come out to keep the peace, sometimes resorting to using tear gas and rubber bullets to disburse the crowds. Helicopters circle overhead with spotlights trained on the crowd. Firecrackers explode in great profusion in the midst of the confusion. It's been almost a month and the protesters continue to be present, stating their demands and (mostly) peacefully demonstrating. 

Governor Northam has stated that the statue will be taken down, but currently there is an injunction against its removal in the courts.

How will this end? May wisdom and "liberty and justice for all" and the arch of history prevail.