I finished my part of the 2008 art fair season in Memphis this week. Minute by minute, we were getting closer to electing Barack Obama president. It was almost too much.
My booth was two blocks away from the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in 1968. I was in 7th grade. It was a profound moment in a new adolescence. It seemed that my world was falling apart. Lots of other people's worlds certainly were.
My parents did not tolerate bigotry around them. My mom was 19 when she was arrested in Mississippi for collecting money from people on the bus she was riding to visit her new husband in basic training. The people on the bus were black and not allowed to go the restaurant where the bus stopped for dinner. She thought that was stupid and she did something about it. She had annoyed the bus driver a couple of hours before by not moving from her favorite spot in the back of the bus to the front when they entered Arkansas. The food was the last straw -- the bus driver turned her in.
This was the woman who literally threw my head under the bathroom faucet and jammed a bar of soap in my mouth when a yelled a horrible expletive at a black woman walking in front of my house. I picked the word up from my grandpa, apparently. It was something they fought about all the time. I think I was four or five at the time. I didn't know what the word meant, but I knew I would never utter it again.
I was thinking about how all those life experiences have shaped my life and my art -- and what it meant to be exhibiting my art on the street in Memphis last weekend. My phone was busy with almost minute-by-minute Twitter updates on the election from NPR and BBC. I was a little tense!
The Memphis art public is knowledgeable and generous. They were buying this weekend. Thank you, Memphis, for seeing past the fear of the day and wanting art in your homes and offices.
I think the people I met this weekend were excited for the possibilities to come. There is so much work to be done and one election doesn't fix anything. But it's a start and I'm glad I was in Memphis last weekend. A lot has been written over the last couple of days about the realization of Dr. King's dream.
Maybe. My 7th grade daughter doesn't really understand why a whole room of white people screamed and cried at 10 p.m. Tuesday night. We knew it could happen -- we desperately wanted it to happen, but we weren't really sure that white America would really put a black man in the White House.
A little bit of healing has begun. A lot of work awaits us.