Emancipation: An Exhibit
Early on in third trimester of Mission Year our team started discussing the looming Justice Project. We knew of it from the beginning of the year, and I always thought it sounded rather intimidating. What can my team and I do that will help combat/bring awareness to some injustice we have noticed in our neighborhood/community?
Living in Third Ward, Houston – our neighborhood comes with a negative stigma. And with its location close to University of Houston and the Light Rail, is prime for gentrification. Our team decided to fight against gentrification by showing the value of our neighbors and community.
Since we all are co-creators, and we knew several of our neighbors were creative, we decided to host an art exhibit. The question we posed to ourselves, our neighbors and eventually to all who came to the exhibit – “What does emancipation in Third Ward mean or look like to you?”
There was beauty in the process. My teammates and I had several discussions about how to get neighbors involved, where to have the exhibit, how/where to promote, what the event would look like, etc. It was tough at times, but forced us to share and communicate. Each of us connected with a neighbor to get their input for the event… which my teammate McKenzie has already written about –
We had Marcelina, one of our few Hispanic neighbors, selling tamales that she makes. She had a statement about how her tamales are both her art form and her means of emancipation, and all the proceeds from the tamales went to supporting her family.
Ella was selling her cookies and signature Stuffed Cups, which are cupcakes with cookies baked into them (and believe me, they’re delicious).
Raul did a sculpture. A neighbor named Franky contributed several of his amazing watercolors for us to display. Josh created a video of Grandma Mae telling stories and talking about Third Ward. Maggie made a window sculpture. We had photographs of some of the inspiration graffiti around, as well as portraits of some of our neighbors. We had written pieces, and in the center of the room, we had a large interactive table with butcher paper so that visitors to the exhibit could share what Emancipation for Third Ward means to them.
During our event, I couldn’t help but smile. I watched as neighbors engaged with each other, conversations were happening between community activists, and people were sharing their opinions about what emancipation meant. Maybe justice is about dreaming about a better future – sharing these dreams with others – moving forward to a more equal life for all.