Hey Creative Friend, I’ve completed another large scale piece. This one is called I am a Child. I shared the work in progress photos for this piece in another post. Check that out here. They’re truly awesome. As I always do here on my blog, I’ll give you the back story to this piece. So, go grab yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and let’s go.
So first, let’s start with my inspiration for this piece. During the year 2020 when we were having the national discussion on social justice and race, I discovered that there was something happening on Instagram. Many students of color in independent and private high schools started creating Instagram accounts usually called Black at — followed by the name of the school. Go ahead, try it. If you know a private high school in your area, type Black At NameoftheSchool into the search engine on Instagram. Chances are, you’ll find an account by Black students who attend that school.
What these accounts were primarily detailing were the experiences of being a Black person in predominantly White schools. I spent a lot of time reading the posts on these pages.
When Children Speak Their Minds – Listen!
Some of them were shocking, gut wrenching and unbelievable. Keep in mind these students are just but children. Their ages ranging between thirteen to eighteen years. That is how young they are. And to think that at those ages, they have already experienced some of the things they described, it was hard for me to bear.
As I kept following these pages, I noticed an interesting trend. A lot of the unpleasant interactions girls had, had to do with their hair. I was shocked. You couldn’t have convinced me that this was the case if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Until then, I hadn’t realized the magnitude of the damaging effect negative perceptions people have of Black hair, has on Black children.
However, those who have researched the topic, already know this to be the case. In her book, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, the author writes:
School is often the first place Black children learn survival skills when it comes to their hair. They’re forced to defend it, explain it, and often make excuses for it as White students and teachers remain unaware of their inner turmoil.Lori L. Thomas, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America
As terrible as those encounters were, what was more disturbing to me, is the lasting effects they had on the girls. Some of them wrote about losing their self-confidence, and their sense of worth. Can you imagine that? At such early ages, these children had already been dealt a life changing blow by the society in which they live.
When Negative Emotions Are Internalized …
The death of self-esteem can occur quickly, easily in children, before ego has “legs”, so to speak. Couple the vulnerability of youth with indifferent parents, dismissive adults, and a world, which, in its language, laws, and images, re-enforces despair; and the journey to destruction is sealed.
The one lest likely to withstand such damaging forces because of youth, gender, and race ….. the most delicate member of society: a child; the most vulnerable member: a femaleToni Morrison, The Bluest Eyes [Affiliate Link]
I created this piece to bring attention to this issue. My intention is to highlight the fact that there are children in our midst. they move through the same spaces we adults move through. Consequently, our actions, our words, and our expressions all have lasting effects on who they shape up to become in future. As we model behaviors that are sensitive to these issues, so will children who’re watching us also do. Then, we’ll not have adults being insensitive to children and children not being mean to each other.
Next, let me tell you why I chose the symbol in the background of this piece. If you look closely at it (right image above), it’s the footprint of a chicken. The symbol is an Adinkra symbol which is from a proverb that goes something like this: Although, the foot of a chicken steps on its chicks, it doesn’t kill them. The essence of this proverb is about nurturing our young so that we don’t destroy them.
Finally, let me share with you a poem I wrote just for this piece:
I am a Child
I am a Child Learning confidence When you see me, do you smile I am a Child Please handle with care When you see me, do you smile I'm a Child Trying to find my way; imbibing everything around me Please don't sneer I am a Child Please be kind When you see me, will you smile
PS: Want to check out the work in progress photos for this piece? Go here.
Want more? Read other Stories Behind The Art.
Also published on Medium.