Dignity & Respect Creates a Tile Quilt at SCC

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On Saturday, March 15, 2014 The Greater Pittsburgh Dignity & Respect Council hosted a “tile quilting” event at Contemporary Craft in conjunction with ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out. Representatives from different affiliated organizations sponsored each hour of the program and over 75 ceramic tiles were designed and painted by guests.  The tiles will become part of a larger Tile Quilt installation, to be displayed at the cafeteria at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Artist Alix Paul was on hand to guide participants through the process. 

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{photos by Alix Paul}

"…make my emotions into art work"

When I was young my parents were both users an exposed me to things that no child should have to witness. One night things got out of hand and my father beat my mom in front of me and hung himself in the garage. I found him and saved his life. Life after that did not get much better with my sister dad also using but he did not take it out on my mom I was the one being abused and getting hit with a belt and he would tell me no one loves me and my mom wasn’t coming home tonight. The art work that touched me the most was maimuna froze nana. Even though it has to do with women I have had a lot of the same things. I do not show most of my emotions I put on a front of some sort to cover up that dark place that was imprinted in me when I was young but my art work really gives me a chance to express those feelings I don’t show. It’s nice to get those feelings out on paper or to make my emotions into art work.

"…remain humble, honest, and be yourself."

“Her”

“Her”…What defines “Her?” May be it was those blue eyes, the smile, and the brown hair that she often interwove her fingers with when I was around her in school. No, she was much more complex as much of us are in today’s society. Or was the product of the cookie-cutter, rich community I was born apart of? If that is the case, could mob mentality really pressure and compel us, the majority of human beings, to conform and do as little to help others if it costs us something in the end?

                                                            The Background

Growing up, I admit wasn’t the easiest. With my parents working and managing a dusk till dawn restaurant, there was little to no quality time between my parents, my siblings, and I. We all grew up independently, shared a tiny bedroom with two bunk beds, and ate from Chinese takeout containers on a daily basis. There were constant fights as you, the reader, might imagine. Financial difficulties of course a long with the predictable. What might that be? Outlets. Unfortunately, unhealthy outlets for my stressed parents which would ultimately result in abuse, gambling addictions, and more. Outlets that will conjure memories that I will never be ashamed to say I’m not fond of due to the anxieties and developmental problems my siblings and I accumulated.

Being in a school where cliques predominated did not help either. Often, I put on a mask and blended in with others to escape the emotional and physical pain at home. I lacked friendship and felt lost. Unbeknownst to the mass of my fellow classmates of course and whatever the person I played so well, they manipulated and took advantage of. I realized deep inside, but again I pretended I was oblivious to what they were doing and saying. Why? I thought I’d at least make others happier so they could feel more confident and secure about themselves.

Sometimes when we do hurtful things to someone else we neglect to understand their background or just forget in the gist of the moment.

But because of those experiences, I’m strong, built, and relate. I don’t feel bad or regret the life I lived.

 

The Music

                                                       Her words that saved me from suicide.

And all I needed was her friendship.

And all I wanted was her understanding…

-Stephanie Kong (2013)

My TA from my psychology class recently told me about how the mentally ill are usually misunderstood but are the most creative. I don’t know if I believe that, but then again the experiences I garnered so far had been from playing on streets, festivals, and open bars to all types of individuals and even to those that are labeled as “deviant”—homeless, drug-addicted people. Just from talking to these beings and undertaking a subjective, constructionist approach, I understand the reasons why these people had come to be. Even with my parents and my siblings. They’re not monsters like what the norm makes them.

I wonder if that’s what people connect with my acoustic, soul music? I address these issues but I know how constrictive and competitive mainstream music is today with sex, drugs, and partying. Hah. Me being me, I know I’m too stubborn and I hope that never changes. After seeing and living through so much, I want to pen songs that help others and uplift them. I’ve seen too many people who’ve undergone some type of rejection or problem and had resorted to drugs/partying. I know I’m not perfect. It took years of rejection just to receive some sort of acknowledgement with my passion for music within my community and internationally on radio-stations. But I’m telling you that everything will be okay with whatever situation you are in. Though that may not be the case presently, everything works out through time. Just always remain humble, honest, and be yourself.

And as for me…

I’m still hoping that one day a record label will like me for my music and messages. Although there are many temptations and the successes I’ve achieved with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, blogs, and radio stations are something I am proud about, I’m not so confident I will break into the music industry immediately. But I do know this. These successes mean you CAN get somewhere despite all odds. Sure, I’m not the number one selling musician or anything like that, but I GOT somewhere because I worked hard and believed. And I know you can too with whatever you are passionate about.

 

 

 

 

 

"…bullets still live inside them."

My brother was a innocent victim of a gang initiation/right of passage. A drive by after eating at a fast food restaurant 4 high-school students have a nice meal innocently drive out of the the lot.
A car full of want to be gang teens drives up next to the students. 12 bullets shot into the basketball players car. 9 hit. 6 in my brother sitting in the back seat. They thought it was a car back firing.
They had never been near such an act. Two other kids in the car each took a bullet too.

No press no promotion or wanted signs. It would prove the B-ball player lived and the initiation would not be complete. So, to save my brother and the other hospital patients. Investigation was very quiet.

My brother went on to be an all American b ball player, yoga instructor and subtle activist.
The others lived and thrived. 3 bullets still live inside them. (It is safer )

Automatic weapons ….. Should not be.


Act out against auto weapons.

One of our partners, Dr. Michael Yonas, currently of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, was involved with the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health’s research project, Visual Voices.

The study was based on Visual Voices programs conducted with 22 children ages 8 to 15 in two low-income and predominantly African-American communities in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. During the Visual Voices sessions, participants created paintings and drawings to share their perceptions, both positive and negative, of community safety and violence, as well as their hopes for the future. Afterward, they combined their individual art projects into two “visual voice” exhibits that were publicly displayed in each city.

Read more about the project here or here.

"Violence comes in all faces."

Violence isn’t always easy to see. Sometimes it is subtle, even seductive, at how it strips away the soul and mind. A simple act, a compromise, can seem so innocent until the ugly truth is revealed. I went back to the hands that, to the words that kill. I went back because I believed in hope. Hope is not the enemy and I know that now. Violence comes in all faces.

"…community, love, and art"

As a victim of random street violence in Pittsburgh, Beth Barron’s work with found objects resonated with me. I found that a bandaid could not heal the deep internal, emotional wounds that still bleed when a trigger walks by on the street. But healing does come in the form of other band aids-community, love, and art.