Black History Month 2021: A Stand for Transformation

Guilherme Chalreo Black History Month Flag
Guilhermo

Black History Month Compilation 1: Art and Writings from our Readers

Compiled by Keri Bowers with Angela Weddle and Carly Fulgham

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Minister, Civil Rights Activist

Michael Hall I have a Dream MLK
Michael Hall “I have a Dream”

“I painted my picture using water paint and colored markers. This made me feel proud and happy to be an American.” Michael Hall

A Case for the Nobel Peace Prize

Well-timed for February’s Black History Month, the Black Lives Matter Movement was recently nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for its call for global systemic change. As we watched Covid’s alarming spread, BLM marches were also growing and spreading exponentially all around the world. Racial injustice had met a critical tipping point in history, in part, ushered in by the era of social media.

While sheltering in our homes, from armchairs, couches, and make-shift home offices, we witnessed up-close and personal growing movement that felt timely, relevant, dire, and essential. An alarming number of high-profile killings and police brutality, watched in real-time, through the internet’s ability to make a viral and virtual impact upon people all around the world. A time like no other in history, everyday citizens record live events and with one click, share the truths of evil instantly.

The time is now upon us that demand the present to look to the past to see the impact of hundreds of collective years of slavery, violence, discrimination, and oppression. In a digital way, the Black Lives Matter movement is different than past historical moments of achievements and failures of the civil rights movement. Technology has given rise to a fever-pitch for global unity in a stand for meaningful systemic change including a demand for social equity for people of color all over the world. The Art of Autism takes this stand proudly, boldly, and operationally as a part of our mission to unite and transform the present and future of inclusion, equality, and equity for all.

For the Art of Autism, Black History month is a vital action step, in synch with ‘our mission to create inclusivity, connection, and transformation in how we see and relate to our differences. Artist’s contributing to our call for imagery of historical figures of color past and present are distinguished.

We will publish the inspiration works of autistic artists and allies throughout the month, and hope you will join us in our visual support of black historical figures that have individually and collectively impacted our world, reminding us to be proactive in humanity’s quest for equality, social justice and reconciliation.

Lisa Smith "No Longer Bound"
Lisa Smith “No Longer Bound”

No Longer Bound
by Lisa Smith

I have observed blacks having a mind frame of been bound still in slavery.
I think I think differently.
I drew No Longer Bound because I was given a lot of opportunities ~
to be the true self.
I know that racism exists, and it is sad that it does.
But I believe in having a mind frame to think that if I try I can,
and with God all things are possible.

Daily I tell myself to keep propelling forward.
As a black female I had a lot more than norm happen to me in life.
Some older blacks would say “Lisa you are too young to have gone through so much”.
But I stand to say I am not bound to a past and yes,
I am trying to propel with what I have to bear.
In my mind frame is I am not bound.
I have a chance and with that I am thankful.

Hands 1964
by CarolAnn Edscorn

Daddy, what’s a white nigger?

Silence and a sigh. Mrs. Burns was my fourth-grade teacher. She often sought ways to engage the awkward girl who stood alone near the trees during recess. When a new student arrived in the Spring of 1964, Mrs. Burns sat him next to the friendless child.

Garth was a wonderful brown color. I think I loved him right away. Garth was also ostracized by his all-white classmates. Garth was a phenomenal artist, and I loved watching him sketch during class. In exchange for Garth teaching me to draw better, I undertook teaching him to knit one, purl two.

During our free time, our heads came together, his curly black hair nearly touching my brown wavy locks. I brought yarn and extra knitting needles and he shared his colored pencils. Our creative time together was magical.

But this was when The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and, in the supposedly tolerant northern state of Connecticut, there were people not at peace with other ethnicities and other cultures, and one morning, Garth and I were sharing out interests, a boy across from us blurted: “You’re a white nigger.” His attitude was mean, derisive. And I had no idea what he meant. (Years later, I was sad when I realized he must have heard this phrase from a parent!)

There I was then, that evening, asking my Dad:” What is a white nigger?” And so I learned about racism. I was sad, very sad.

Garth’s family must have moved. After fourth-grade I never saw him again. But I did witness racism.

Austin John Jones "Howlin' Wolf"
Austin John Jones “Howlin’ Wolf” Digital Art

I have always been a huge fan of blues. Howlin’ Wolf is one of the legendary blues masters that I treasure the most. With his voice rough as nails, he really satisfies my soul every time he sings.

Austin John Jones "Buddy Guy"
Austin John Jones “Buddy Guy”

Buddy Guy is a legendary guitarist and blues master. When he plays guitar, it speaks to your soul, it moves you, and it makes you feel happy. Guitar god, wonderful singer, and everything else you could say about could not fully describe how much I appreciate and respect his music.

Nils and Obie
Nils and Obie

Ode to Obie, my Chosen Great-Godfather
by Nils Skudra

This poem is dedicated to Obie Nash, a very close friend of mine in California who served in World War II and brought home a German war bride. I have since lost contact with him but deeply cherish the time spent with him, listening to his war stories and his insights. I feel honored to have chosen him as my great-godfather. Particularly since this is Black History Month, it was very interesting to learn that he was treated better in Europe as an African American GI than he was in his own country, which was heartbreaking for him.

I see the photograph: you — black, beaming, full of bravado off to fight a war on German soil, not of your own making the light is incandescent, against the barracks in the company of others, rifles poised against their chests, brazen, facing down the camera’s eye which takes with it a piece of the soul in every moment (indiscriminate).

Far from Alabama and the soft rhythms of its speech and a land where pigment (which should be the color of water) is everything and segregation is still the common rant and being African-American is termed inexpedient. You do abide and have come to make your mark for humanity though perhaps your own country scorns and derogates you.

What is color anyway: just a five-letter word of no signal importance. What is the hue of thunder, of water breaking on the shore, or the howl of a lone coyote on the plain, of a mother’s love when her son is lost on a roiling sea, an infinite night punctuated by a gallery of stars. But I digress: because what you did over there, in Europe, with your American brothers, intent on exterminating the Nazi threat, had nothing at all to do with color but only to do with gallantry and ethics and saving the Jews and other so-called undesirables from the mass slaughter that had been fashioned for them.

In the intemperate heat of battle your blackness fell off you like the mantle of night to the sunrise where, far from your family, on foreign soil, there were no black-and-white bathrooms or indices of different/not-equal.

At the Nuremburg trials you witnessed men, white-skinned, monstrous in their sins, multifarious and understood that bigotry was not only a discrimination practiced in America… you cried for the Jews whose ashes lay around you, piled in heaps of bones, “schrecklich”, the German word for “dreadful” which in your eighties, you still remember.

And you were changed from the experience, beyond the measure of any calculus that can define the architecture of a life. Coming back from the genocide, still the soldier, you carried the brace of what you had seen in Europe, and vowed: this is where it ends — I am a man, like any other, who is defined by my heart and mind and soul and nothing so inconsequential as color where courage has no shade and love, a guiding beacon, is the force which is irrefutable in my life, and the seed which I sow, colorless and enduring, in a place where no longer can I suffer the diminishings of liberty for a negro’s tribe.

I am just a white boy, only twenty in my years, who has never been to battle but all the same has been transmogrified by the epic fights that you have waged. For me: you are simply my great-godfather, color-less, the color of water, the wind thunderous against the sky, moon pendulous and permanent, as rain which again and again, variable in tone, will soon arrive. The sound of the whipporwill and egret is you, sounds which have no color, the movement of a wild appaloosa on the plain this poem is my Liebeslied (love song) to you.

Keri Bowers "Amanda Gordon The Hills I Climb"
Keri Bowers “Amanda Gordon – The Hills I Climb”

Click here to read about the origins of Black History Month

Click here to read about the BLM Nobel Peace Prize nomination

The Art of Autism will continue to share works in support of the continued stand for the essential education and transformation of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in honor of Black History Month, throughout February.

Please support our efforts by sharing our initiative with others.

Cover image: Guilherme Chalreo “Black History Month” Fiber Art. Guilherme is an autistic artist who prefers working with fiber art. He worked one whole month in order to finish this flag which is an interpretation of several images Ihis mom Maria José Ramos showed him.

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