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Art And Cultural Connections Can Bring Light To Our Current Troubling Situations

Omari Rush
Lisa Barry
89.1 WEMU

Omari Rush is a state and local arts leader and co-host of "Art and Soul: The Visual Arts" here on WEMU.  As executive director of CultureSource and an African American man, he wrote a message in response to recent racial incidents with police to artists and the community and shared it with WEMU's Lisa Barry.

"Be the Light: A Reflection on Art and Life" by Omari Rush

Two weeks ago, in my monthly letter to the CultureSource’s membership, I was compelled to mention Amaud Arbery, but I didn't.  At the end of Memorial Day, I assumed I would be calling out birdwatcher Christian Cooper in my June letter.  And today, I find that I must write about George Floyd—now.

As a black man, these recent episodes of terror broadcast on evening news and looping on social media validate my simmering nervousness in public spaces.  Each of these moments attempts to lessen my humanity by demanding more android-like alertness from me and eliminating my access to grace in making mistakes. 

However, I realize that in order to claim my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I must not think of my agency as an algorithm of survival.  I must let the core of me shine. 

Curiously, as I paused in writing this note, a film I saw last August in an art house theater came to mind: Luce.  While the plot and wordplay of the film title are complex, I find it beautiful that my mind, needing to make sense of this moment, somehow surfaced this story of a young black man whose name means light and who struggles with darkness.  That is art at work.

To more actively process the recent, scary succession of blatant injustices, I am writing. (My teary, 90-minute bike Tuesday night wasn't soothing enough.)  And as I probe my own efforts to be alive, I realize that I am most successful at this when I am expressing myself creatively or when I am bathed in the artistry of another.

I write to remind you and myself that we can all use our art and spaces of cultural connection to generate light—light that shines on issues, light used for warmth or visibility, and light that powers and protects life.  When intolerance seems unacceptably high, as it does now, we can step onto the frontlines of hearts and minds and get to work using our gifts and talents as arts workers to make a difference.

I need you.  Our communities need you.  And future generations need you. 

And if you need me, I’ll be ready to join you with my light.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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