I wake up and it is quiet
There’s no noises
The sunlight is peeking through the blinds of my bedroom window, where I see the wind ruffle the leaves of our magnolia tree.
I hear the wind, now, too.
Two hummingbirds are buzzing at the feeder suction cupped to my window. They rest and drink the sugary water and look at me through the window.
A crow caws as it flies past, and my wife rolls over in her sleep. The sound of her breathing is long and measured.
I wake up like this, everyday. It is extremely peaceful and the most relaxing thing I’ve ever experienced.
Yet, my heart is beating fast, very fast, like wings of the hummingbird outside of my window. There’s a knot of anxiety that refuses to dissipate. Something has a hold on my chest and my breathing is shallow. Why? What is making me feel this way, when I wake up in such an idyllic environment?
I pick up my phone that is next to me on my nightstand, and then I know why. Why I’ve felt this way for months, why I’ve felt uneasy since I moved from Brooklyn, to Seattle.
I feel unsafe. I feel that my life is threatened.
I know that my life is threatened.
People are being murdered by the police, almost on a daily basis. The rights of gay and transgender people are being stripped away from them. Muslims are being targeted by bigots and denied entry into the “land of the free.” The education system is in shambles and young people are being terrorized by current policy. Teachers are devalued and deemed worthless; there are articles about teachers being replaced by AI. Artistic expression and creativity is shunned, but lies are universally accepted. The gap between the rich and poor is widening, as is the divide between black and white. Canada was on fire, and the smokescreen has made Seattle’s air quality akin to Beijing. White Supremacists are marching in Virginia, burning torches, and spreading vitriol, bolstered by a nation that has chosen hate as its form of expression.
Polar ice caps are melting and it is way too hot. Animals and trees are dying, and I’m laying in bed, and it is quiet and serene.
It’s feels like I’m lying in a coffin.
I know that I’m lucky, but I know my luck will end. Our luck will end. I wake up every day thinking today will be the day. The day that my life will be taken from me.
Then I remember
We are stronger together.
Out of darkness, there is light.
There is power in art.
After the dark ages in Europe, there was the renaissance. Because of da Vinci, we understood Flight.
After years of “let them eat cake,” we had the French Revolution and with it, folk tales from the Brothers Grimm and music from Mozart and Beethoven. Artists turning their fears and desires into children’s stories and complex musical notes.
After the Mexican Revolution, we saw the innovative period of Mexican Muralism, which brought us artists like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Out of bloodshed and war, these muralists created images of family life and, of working class people, normally overlooked, in classical art.
During the Great Depression, there was also the Harlem Renaissance, highlighting Black artists of the 20s. From a time when people were grabbing pigeons out of the sky for dinner, Black artists were holding onto life, by reflecting what they saw in the world. There’d be no jazz, rock n roll, or hip hop without the Harlem Renaissance.
I wonder what art will spring forward based on the lives we live in 2017. How will the youth of tomorrow see the youth of today?
Written By: James Miles