“Can you tell I’m anxious? new art coming. I’m excited. It’s dark, scary…like the way the future seems sometimes.” Vivian, a first-year college student, typed these words into her Instagram post with sketches she had made for a painting. It was 1:15 a.m., and she had drawn anguished faces as she responded to the pardon of Joe Arpaio and the rumored threats to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Later that morning, the front page of the New York Times online edition featured an image of Brittany and her daughter, leading a protest in the wake of the death of Michael Brown. Now a high-risk labor and delivery nurse and still a leader in the worldwide struggle against pervasive racism, Brittany is featured in “Whose Streets” a much-acclaimed documentary about the real people who sparked the Ferguson movement and carried the burden of leadership. In the newspaper image taken from the film, Brittany’s face reveals determination to declare Black Lives Matter, as her daughter Kenna grips her tightly.
And that afternoon, Anthony appeared on a panel at Design + Diversity, a conference by and for designers of color. Anthony earned honors at St. Louis Community College before transferring to Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). Since graduating from SCAD, he’s been hard at work trying to put his passion for storytelling into formats meaningful to the community and to share what he knows about coming of age as a black man in St. Louis.
At this stage in my life and career, I sometimes feel a heavy burden to say or do the right thing, to solve problems. But right now, I don’t know what to say about the condition of democracy or the future of the United States of America. Most people I know don’t really know what to say.
Just when I’ve run out of my secret stash of optimism or can’t find the right words, I am reminded to LISTEN. Expressions of resistance, strength, and determination are surfacing everywhere. Like Vivian, Brittany, and Anthony, young leaders are declaring their presence and expressing themselves. This country has never needed them more.
– Faith Sandler