Beloved Community – Responding to the ugliness of injustice with beauty-full expression

Martin Luther King, Jr. once explained: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

What does it look like in practice when power, love and justice come together?

On Wednesday, 22 October, I attended an art intervention outside Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Building. The action was in conjunction with a National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.  Concerned Citizens for Community Safety, supported byWise Fool NM and the Peñasco Theatre Collective, organized the event.

In the press release for the intervention, the organizers locate the heart of the matter with the question:  “We have to ask and answer the question of what kind of community we want to live in?” Any community could answer this question in so many ways. Concerned Citizens for Community Safety are emphasizing the importance of creating communities that are rooted in collaborative public policies, mutual respect, restorative justice and a high standard of accountability for elected leaders.

Though it was not stated in the press release, I get the distinct impression that Concerned Citizens also want to live in communities rooted in beauty and play.

The art intervention was to protest specifically the recent grand jury decision of ‘justifiable homicide’ in the case of Española, New Mexico Police Officer Jeremy Apodaca killing sixteen year old Victor Villalpando on June 8, 2014. Artists created expressions through physical theatre, dance, poetry, spoken word, cardboard-based art and puppetry.

As well as protesting the grand jury decision with regard’s to Victor’s death, the intervention explicitly named over a hundred victims (under the age of 30) of lethal police violence. People present at the intervention were invited to write messages to the police on the back of cardboard cut out guns that would be delivered to the police in Española.

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Cardboard cut out guns with messages for the police, at an art intervention in Santa Fe, organized by Concerned Citizens for Community Safety, 22 October 2014 – in conjunction with a National Day of Protest to STOP police brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.

I found this intervention restorative – generating health and strength. It gave everyone present the opportunity to express rage, grief, fear and bewilderment in response to the ugliness of unjustifiable, deadly violence. We weren’t left there, however. The song  “Let the Sunshine In” blasted. Led by group of young performers, we were invited to dance to honor and celebrate life. From my perspective, throughout the event, an undercurrent flowed. It carried hope for, and commitment to, creating a different, brighter future. It carried a commitment to Beloved Community. 

Love.

We sometimes easily forget that practices of accountability, mutuality, restorative justice and participatory policymaking are all forms of love. This kind of love is anything but sentimental and anemic.

Power.

At one level, with the decision of the court and the persistence of violent policing, people are feeling powerless. Power means the capacity to act or strength.  At another level, people are feeling powerful. I don’t know about you, but to me, standing up in a public space and speaking out against injustice through self-created forms of imaginative expression embodies power.

What does it look like in practice when power, love,  justice come together? It looks like the beauty-full art intervention I witnessed and participated in on 22 October 2014, in front of the Santa Fe First Judicial District Court Building.

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Photo of performers and a giant puppet (in the image of the teenager Victor Villalpando, who was killed by an Española, NM police officer on 8 June 2014) in a scene created by Concerned Citizens for Community Safety as part of an art intervention in conjunction with the National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation – 22 Oct 2014.

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