To show our belief in the sacred worth of black lives, Annandale UMC recently convened a committee to create artwork reflecting that philosophy. Below is a reflection on the meaning of that artwork from Suzy Scollon.
We Can Have an Impact
I felt honored to be asked to be part of the Black Lives are Sacred project at church. I am an artist, an art teacher in FCPS, and a parent of three teenage boys. It’s important for me personally to be aware of injustice happening around me, to be receptive and advocate for change in whatever way I can. I need to model for my boys that it is important to be cognizant of injustice and be a part of making positive change. We can have an impact. In order to speak up for others, though, I have to listen to stories that may be difficult to hear. I have to recognize that steps toward progress may feel awkward and small, but with others involved and with good intentions and patience, we can get the ball rolling. Momentum toward change can build and become powerful.
A few years ago, my kids told me stories about situations they observed at school where students were being insulted and ridiculed because of their race. The anger I felt about the injustices those students of color experienced motivated me to develop an art project that would give those kids a platform and help promote empathy and understanding among people from many different backgrounds. I pitched my idea to the Arts Council in Fairfax (ARTSFairfax), received a grant, and launched my empathy project at Frost Middle School. The program was successful and incredibly meaningful for all of us involved. Many tears were shed by students and staff when the project was complete. I continued this project with elderly and found similar success providing opportunities for people to listen to other’s stories – connect and empathize. I believe this is the key to creating peace, justice and compassion.
I took part in the planning for the Black Lives Matter project at church with a small group of members. We spent a few hours discussing the message and our hopes for the project. With their input, I developed a couple designs and we settled on a design that included scripture and our Because Jesus Is Lord, Black Lives Are Sacred message.
I’m not particularly knowledgeable about theology; like many followers, I need a clear message. Our committee agreed that we needed to keep the message simple and focused on Black Lives. “Black Lives Matter” was replaced with “Black Lives Are Sacred,” I felt like the message was elevated and that it all tied together beautifully.
COMPONENTS of the Display:
The easels are large – black and bold. They represent the strength, importance and weight of this message: Black Lives are Sacred. The message is elevated and cradled on those solid, giant easels.
Symbolism of the Doors: Why doors? Doors represent duality, transition and action. By opening a door, one must take an action in order to cross a threshold – change. They remind us that there is something better on the other side when we take action.
Symbolism of the Stained Glass: I wanted to show a symbol of the church. Historically, stained glass was a way to teach the stories of the Bible to those who couldn’t read. Stained glass reminds us of the values and religious teachings we strive to follow. I incorporated the stained-glass design in the background of the large lettering and main message as a way to show that the church is behind this message that Black Lives are Sacred.
Symbolism of the Colors used: Our committee decided to limit the color scheme. We wanted it to be about Black Lives so we kept the color scheme mostly to Black and White. I added grays and blue to the stained glass design. Blue represents the sky, hope, heaven, and sincerity.
Why have the youth help? I am an art teacher – I love working with kids. I wanted the youth to be part of this important project. I know that there is a lot of work to do with educating youth about empathy and equity, but in many ways, our youth are further along than many adults. Teaching in diverse schools, observing kids learning about each other, and parenting my boys provide many opportunities for me to look inward at my own biases.
Why the running text? David King, who was part of the planning group, shared the scripture for the text on the doors. I paired them with each door intentionally and hopefully; by reading the text over and over, the message will sink in more deeply.