At the end of the 2021 school year, the 5th grade art class at my child's school created a mural about social justice, with the mentorship of a local celebrated artist's collective.
Just after it was painted on the lunchroom wall (in July) a leader of an adjacent school, passing in front of the piece, responded strongly, publicly exclaiming "I feel attacked" and demanding the piece be removed (it is not entirely necessary, but probably relevant to note that this gentleman was caucasian). In any case, hours later, the painting was entirely destroyed, the apparent logic being that no one had seen it, so no one would miss it.
But we did see it, because, you know, smartphones.
And now some of the students, parents and teachers actually miss it quite a bit. An investigation is pending, but I found that I just couldn’t really wait for all that. I mean, I'm an artist too - I guess I took it somewhat personally.
This is the mural:
as a parent, and an artist, and concerned community member, is my response.
Thank you for your time.
you feel attacked
but, you're not being attacked
but no one's paying attention so you yell it
loud with zeal
'cause volume makes emotion real
you feel attacked.
...so it's not happening now
which is a huge relief I'm sure
and let me validate your
fine art fueled emotional state
but you're not being attacked
that you connected
with art you then vivisected
cause that's what the art means
the point was plainly evident
the subjects, they all feel attacked because, for them, it's actual fact
its who they love
their choices of religious books
their memories ofexperienced harm
engender deep fear and alarm
and unlike tantrum fueled vague dread
they know there's plenty more ahead and so they stand
to harmonize society
to make a place to live their lives
to find their husbands and their wives
and raise a family small or large
and send them here. where you're in charge.
some folks just don't respond to shade
so through loud marching, points are made
Because they feel attacked, it's true
scared, panicked, threatened,
just like you.
and so you felt,
but didn't see.
the power in art is empathy –
yet righteous outrage towards a wall
took that experience from us all.
just put it back.
that starts the healing.
I have no proof, it's just
Jd Michaels is a parent, artist, concerned community member, national diversity and inclusion executive, and resident of Brooklyn, New York.