I write because I want you to know that the Vision & Justice Civic Curriculum is now freely available to you.
“How has visual representation both limited and liberated our definition of American citizenship and belonging?”
This is the animating question behind the Vision & Justice Project, led by the incomparable Sarah Lewis. Visual representation has always been a powerful tool for reshaping our culture. But social media has exploded the power of the image. We need to be aware of this power. And we need to wield it with intention. As Lewis says:
Social media has changed how we ingest images. Protests, social injustice, and collective moments of triumph are all played out in photographs and videos in real time unlike anything we thought possible just a few decades ago. What skills of visual literacy are required to understand the opportunities and challenges that technology presents to civic life?
Last week I attended the first Vision & Justice Convening. Where this curriculum was released. It has been in the making ever since the monumental response to the “Vision & Justice” issue of Aperture (May 2016) guest edited by Sarah Lewis. The curriculum was funded in part by the Lambent Foundation, one of my visionary clients.
I met Sarah Lewis when I facilitated Creative Change at Sundance in 2013. I was immediately struck by her combination of brilliance and wisdom. I will never forget her admonishment that the activist comes at you head on (often with a hammer), while the aesthetic is something that sneaks up on you sideways. Moving you. Before you know that you are moved.
Sarah Lewis is part of a community of luminaries.To be at last week’s convening was to be immersed in the power of black excellence. I invite you to learn about the people that are working to shape culture in this way.
It was dream hampton who invited me to the original Vision & Justice Aperture event in 2016. Her writing is featured in the landmark issue. And you definitely want to learn about her.
Three years later it was nothing but glorious to be in the presence of the legendary Carrie Mae Weems. Who enlightened us with her radiance. David Adjaye, architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture was there. We heard from people like Alexandra Bell and Jelani Cobb. Theaster Gates was there. As was Kassel Dean and many others.
What is unfolding here is something that truly matters. Check out the curriculum. Share it. Learn about these artists. Ask yourself the question: How can visual representation help us to become free?
This is the work of generations. Because it is over generations that a culture can be shaped.
It is the great Frederick Douglass who once again has the best words for it:
“Poets, prophets, and reformers are all picture-makers—and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements. They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.”
There is vision here. And here there is also hope.