I thought I would be so full of words and moments of clarity, pearls of literary ease and brilliance – but I found myself oddly silent. Working to produce Mighty Fingers Facing Change, up until the time I boarded the plane demanded posts, calls, tweets, pitches, proposals… efforts to build and fund this project were so consuming, and often disappointing, that when a quiet moment presented itself, doubt and insecurity crept in, “Am I crazy? Is this worth the effort? Does it matter to anyone else?”
My years of creating collaborative art had convinced me that this project was worth the effort. The decay of my joyful spirit screeched loudly that it was not.
Standing at gate E10 in the Newark airport all of that pressure and noise washed away. The anxiety over NOT raising enough money, NOT finding a sponsor, NOT having ALL of the pieces in place, NOT being able to afford help – all of the NOT’s disappeared and all I could see were my own Mighty Fingers – Facing Change. I liked it – a lot. Recent FingerSmear commissions and painting sales padded my humble bank account and I took a deep breath and boarded the plane. The smile on my face and a sense of calm settled in.
We were gathered from Guatamala City airport with a warm welcome from our hosting organization, The Association IDEI, and The Child and Youth Parliament of Guatemala. They began their work over 19 years ago in response to the AIDS epidemic and its proclivity to destroy indigenous populations less receptive to western methods of prevention and treatment. Since their inception, they have evolved into a widespread association that covers 18 of the 22 departments in Guatemala and focuses on four pillars: leadership, self-education, interdependence, and sustainability. Their development and support of a youth parliament has given these girls a voice, and they have plenty to say.
Over the course of the week, we worked with groups of girls from various indigenous groups. The IDEI selected participants from around the country and brought them in for this day of empowerment. Through art, they came together, voicing similar concerns for their communities and sharing ideas for sustainable solutions. They stressed the need for easier access to education and healthcare. They spoke often of the prevalence of child labor, early marriage, sexual violence, and alcoholism in their culture – balanced by a deep sense of pride in their indigenous heritage. They see education, speaking out, and action at a governmental level as the solution. All of these girls also expressed their concerns for the natural beauty of Guatemala, and the need to implement policies that will keep their water clean and their landscape free from the pollution of modern convenience.
I was fully alive in that room, listening through our enthusiastic interpreter and expressing myself through charades and my minimal grasp of Spanish. I watched girls from around the country come together to be heard, to listen, to laugh – and to do it all through the communicative power of art.
Toni Tru caught much of it on video and is editing as I write. We are excited to connect these change-makers with the next group of girls in Jackson WY, Edmonton Canada, Austin TX, San Francisco CA, China, Indonesia, Bhutan, The Philippines, Uganda, Nigeria, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Afghanistan… and you.
For those of you that have supported this dream of mine, thank you. It feels good to live it. Together we are inspiring the dreams of daughters around the world. I am truly humbled to be a part of it.
My Godfather gave me a great piece of advice upon my return. He asked, “how was it”? Still unable to express the rollercoaster ride of developing Mighty Fingers, combined with this quiet sense of accomplishment –he offered an expression that I had never heard before, but it made me smile and I think I’ll carry it forever. “You can’t push a wet noodle,” he said. So along I shall go, pulling my little piece of pasta through the world, focused not on what is stuck in front of me, but rather on the trail it leaves behind me – smiling over the few it may feed along the way.
Pictures from the project are on our Facebook page. Video coming soon!