How Visiting Berlin Changed My Life

Witnessing the footage of Sandra Bland being violently pulled from her vehicle, caused me to feel the kind of disbelief and anger that starts in your toes and then creeps up to your lungs until it becomes hard to breathe. Why was she assaulted by this young police officer? Why did he pin her to the ground? Why wasn’t she allowed to smoke her cigarette? Why does this keep happening? This last question would not let go of me. Why does this keep happening?

Around that same time I traveled to Berlin, a city that has borne witness to some of the worst atrocities in all of humanity. It is also a city that has worked hard to reconcile itself with its past. This was most evident at the Topography of Terror, a museum named for its location. Built on top of the site where the Third Reich had its offices and alongside a section of the Berlin Wall, from 1933 – 1989, this section of the city was a metaphor for human tragedy.  But the Topography of Terror merely presented this information without interpreting it, allowing the viewer to have his or her own experience. Document reproductions were positioned next to photographs in display cases. These cases serpentined inside of the space. More display cases lined the exterior. So Much history, so much information, none of it interpreted only presented.

An idea struck me:  I could curate an art show that presented the history of racial discrimination in America, but visitors could walk away with their own interpretations -minus the judgement – minus the editorials. I could offer the facts by using documents from American history and invite artists to create works that represented their experiences of how racism has impacted their lives.

My brain began to buzz with a flurry of ideas. What would I need? Who could I contact? Where could this show be held? Did it occur to me that I have no experience and that maybe this idea was a little crazy? Absolutely. But I kept asking, “Why does this keep happening?” That question was louder than the  voices that were expressing fear. The fear in moving forward with this project is only as big as I allow it to be. Stay tuned, and make contributions to the cause here.

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