100 years, but is it really time to celebrate?

(L-R) Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Adella Hunt Logan

Although today marks the 100 year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, let’s not forget that it took 45 more years and the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 for Jim Crow laws, discrimination and the repression of women to even begin to loosen it’s grip. Black women, Native American women and Chinese immigrants were not granted voting rights 100 years ago, and to this day still are fighting to have their voices truly heard. I was not taught in school about the multitude of women like Ida B Wells* and Mary Church Terrell** who fought for the voting rights of every woman. I was not taught about Adella Hunt Logan, a mixed race woman who identified as African American but who was light skinned enough to pass as white so she gained access to many suffrage associations and meetings that she would have not had access to otherwise. Risking her own life posing as white in conservative Alabama, Logan emphasized through her writing the importance of the vote for all women, but especially to black women, saying, “they need the vote and the vote needs them.” 

100 years later women are still fighting for equality, equity, and against racism and sexism. Women are still fighting to be noticed. We can not glaze over our history for it leads to complacency. I am approached often and told it’s different now. There are women who will look at the fact that Kamala Harris is a Vice Presidential candidate and think the above words and issues do not apply anymore. You are wrong and I invite you to think about the Martin Luther King words below, because if even one woman is discriminated against it affects us all.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Dr. Martin Luther King.

Whatever you know, whatever you believe, whatever you fight for, make sure you get out and vote. Exercise the right that others fought for you to have. Celebrate that.

* Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was an American investigative journalist, educator, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Wikipedia

**Mary Church Terrell was one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree, and became known as a national activist for civil rights and suffrage. She taught in the Latin Department at the M Street school —the first African American public high school in the nation—in Washington, DC. Wikipedia

“Together” can often feel lonely.

If I’m going to paint 110′ murals that spell out in 12 1/2′ letters “TOGETHER”, then my everyday actions should support the theory that “together” we overcome and move forward. 110′ is BIG, but I believe it is the small everyday things that truly make a difference.

I’d like to share with you an article I came across this morning about depression. I have had my own bouts with depression, mostly before menopause, as I now realize those bouts often came to visit as regularly as my monthly cycle. My solution was often to open a bottle of wine and just chill, find quiet time for myself. For awhile that helped, until it didn’t. A glass of wine or two, or three wasn’t quite enough and turned into a bottle or two, which then turned into vodka on ice, don’t bother with the soda or juice. Now I was depressed and had a headache to go along with it. By the grace of god I made a decision to stop drinking, and lo and behold was informed alcohol is actually a depressant! I don’t remember the surgeon general telling me that? Today I am so thankful to not feel such low lows on such a regular basis. I attribute the change to my “change”, literally my hormones, abstaining from alcohol, personal work and growth, and a little help from my friends, but I can see that when depression did visit me, I had very little control of when it would come, or how I would entertain it. Had it visited me during a pandemic… well, I don’t even want to think about that.

What would we do without friends?

I saw it as my personal responsibility to share the following article. Being someone who can relate to feeling depressed and empathize with others, I am often left not knowing the right thing to do or say when faced with someone I care about who is suffering. I found this article informative and helpful. I hope you will too. We are in this together.

“Revealing Your Depression Didn’t Go Well”

Someone close to you has depression. Here’s how be an ally.

read article here: https://link.medium.com/fOHWwSsNn8

Image for post
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Accepting you are racist. Step 1

I grew up in the city of Philadelphia at a time when schools were just beginning to be segregated. This meant the black children were actually counted in each classroom making sure a certain number was met. White was certainly still the majority but kids bussed from other neighborhoods were literally sprinkled into each classroom. Philadelphia also had a large Catholic population and often you would refer to your neighborhood as “the parish” you lived in. The majority of those Catholic families pulled their kids out of public schools by the third grade and sent them to a “good” Catholic school where it was assumed they would learn better and be safer. There were some of course who sincerely wanted religion to be part of their child’s upbringing, but for many they’d only show up to church on the obligatory Christmas and Easter. 

It was during those informative school years that I’ve often pointed to moments that made me think of myself as “not racist”. For example, my first childhood crush was on a little black boy named Derick. I would write “I love Derick”, all over my school books. I can remember my mom discouraged this and would tell me not to tell people I liked him. At the time I thought it was because I was too young to have a boyfriend, but a few years later, when I was still too young and my crush turned to a little white boy, it suddenly became ok to speak about it. I knew the difference. I saw the prejudice and it upset me.

Moving on to middle school I discovered my love for basketball. I was recruited to the schools team and was a starting forward. I was a huge Philadelphia 76ers fan and Julius Erving was my favorite player. Bobby Jones a star power forward on the 76ers at the time was the only white starter on the team and since I was the only white girl on my school’s team, my nickname quickly became Bobby Jones. When I would make a shot from outside the three point line or drive to the basket and make a layup the whole gymnasium would shout, “Bobby Joooooones…” I remember wishing they’d yell, “Errrrrving.” Erving was so cool, and Jones in my eyes was a tall, goofy looking white man. Race riots were common in our school, and many times we were on the local 6:00 news because of them. They were serious, kids bringing knives, making bomb threats. I never remember feeling unsafe because the black kids “liked me”. They had my back, since I was on the team and all. 

Through my middle school and high school years many of my closest friends were black. I thought later in my life that we related in a way that I didn’t with many of the white kids. I had always felt like nothing was expected of my life. College wasn’t necessary according to my family, art was a hobby and nice, just go get a respectable job, a respectable young lady would do. Keep your head down and stay out of trouble. Don’t bring attention to yourself. Get married and have kids. I thought my black friends’ parents didn’t expect better for them either and probably sent them the same messages. That was a generalization I would later regret. Who the hell was I to assume what their families wanted for them?

My senior year of high school I was being scouted by many colleges. Neither one of my parents had ever seen me play a basketball game. I was team captain and had been offered several partial scholarships and two full rides. One was to Kentucky State and the other to Cheyney University in Pennsylvania (which was originally called the Institute for Colored Youth). I believed wholeheartedly that the recruiters from Cheyney only wanted me at their school because I was white. They were now being forced into having their own status quo and with my good grades and decent jump shot I fit the bill. I remember thinking, that’s clearly why they want me, because their scouts just sat in the bleachers and saw two of my black teammates play so much better than me, why are they not even asking about them? I wouldn’t even consider going to Cheyney, not because I would have been part of the 1% white population attending, but based on a matter of principal that it just wasn’t fair. I wouldn’t end up going to Kentucky either. My parents would later tell me they never sent the required paperwork in, and they would not allow me to go to college to play basketball. 

Fast forward to today and I’ve created this project Girl Noticed. I do murals in many underserved, marginalized communities. My artwork has celebrated many black women and young girls, and somehow through all these years I thought because of the list of events I just described about my youth all of this made me “not racist”. 

I was wrong. 

I realize now that I have recounted these and other events many times out-loud and in my head as making me different or somehow special as a white person. Singling myself out as “better than” other whites. If you are black and reading this I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Privileged white people insisting it is not me but them. I am different. But am I? Are you? I am privileged based solely on the color of my skin every single day. I have seen racism over and over again only to say “that’s not me”. The passiveness of saying not me, of saying I am disgusted by others racist actions, but then sitting back and waiting for the problems to go away on their own does not make me an exception but a bigger part of the problem. Even accepting that some racism will never go away makes me complacent.

It’s time to stop talking, stop explaining, stop exceptionalizing, and start listening. It’s time to accept you are racist and so am I. Then and only then, will we move towards Step 2. Consider the fact, you don’t even know what step two is. You haven’t the slightest clue, neither do I. How about we shut up and listen to what it needs to be.

“Shallow understating from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Luke warm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” … Dr. Martin Luther King

ENUFF… shouldn’t it be spelled that way?

I guess however you spell it the notion of not being enough has been like a sharp piece of glass I stepped on when I was about seven years old and for the next forty five years have had stuck in my foot. Some days if you were to watch me go through life you’d see me hopping, completely avoiding the glass, but tired from the energy it takes to hop around life on one foot. Other days you’d see me almost stomping, stepping down hard, the glass pushing deeper into my foot and the pain radiating throughout my whole body as I wince with each step. Most days you’d see me just walking gingerly being careful not to step on the exact spot where it’s the most painful. Those are the days I’m “dealing with it”, or is that avoiding too? Why has it never crossed my mind to stop walking and get the glass out of my foot?

My long walk towards seeing who I am..

I’m seven and it’s an ordinary day where my mother is telling me to sit like a lady. My body doesn’t seem to naturally do that, and I can’t understand why my knees must be pressed together at all times. It’s uncomfortable. “Stand up straight” and “Lori not so loud”, would also be daily mantra’s coming from the lips of my mother’s annoyed face that often read why do I have to tell you again? Although however annoyed she appeared to be at having to continuously repeat herself, shushing my sometimes loud and excited voice and telling me how to sit, stand and walk was her attempt to raise me as what she perceived was an exceptional young lady. In her world it was her job as my mother, her duty to teach me these things. Otherwise society would never accept me and I could never be happy. I would certainly suffer if I grew up to become a hunched over, loud mouthed, knees apart woman! My mother loved me, she still loves me and she still shushes me now and then which drives me instantly insane.

These stories of our childhood become the stories we use to describe ourselves. As we grow and mature we strengthen these stories with what we call “facts” so we can reinforce, so we can prove what we already believe about ourselves. The “I Am” of who we are. Now if you know me, you might be saying, Lori you had some pretty traumatic things happen to you in your life that must have defined how you thought about yourself. Actually, those were the things that reinforced how I felt about myself. The “I AM” was already there.

My mother wanting me to be what she thought was acceptable, me repeatedly hearing her correct the way my body naturally held itself made me feel like I would never be what she wanted. I was not like the other girls she saw as perfect. I was not enough and yes I have spent my whole life reinforcing that belief, stepping on the glass pushing it deeper into my foot. I even created this non-profit Girl Noticed to show other girls we can walk standing proud without the pain of glass in our feet. It’s this project actually, the self reflection, the eagerness to learn more about myself and the teaching others what I thought I already knew that has helped me to slowly and gently start pulling the glass out of my tired feet. I’ve realized the many pieces of glass my own mother walked on in fear of what the neighbors or my grandmother or her friends would think about her if I wasn’t “the perfect young lady”, because that would make her not the perfect mom. I grow to realize that she had her own struggles and beliefs about not being good enough, not just as a mom, but probably as a wife and woman in general. To my own horror I see how we hand these beliefs down from generation to generation like we would family recipes, all of the secret ingredients held tight to our chests. I can only hope I haven’t passed this particular recipe down to my own daughter or son, but as I sit writing this I can already think of some of the ways that I have. I can imagine they have their own stories they tell themselves where I’m not even aware of the character I have played. Grace, Gianni, permission to tell me to knock it off when I’m passing my own insecurities onto you. It’s about time I take responsibility for how I see me. Its my story after all and rewriting it, retelling it, is my option. I believe it’s the way to becoming enough. What stories have you told yourself? Are you ready to pull out the glass?

Hope

Irene Zisblatt, Holocaust Survivor

Holocaust survivor Irene Zisblatt is an authority in the field of hope. “We have to find a way, we have to try,” she says. We have to use our words to spread hope. “There is no room for hate.”

When she was just 13 years old, Irene Zisblatt, along with her siblings and parents were taken on trains to Auschwitz-Birkenau. “I am a child survivor of a man’s hatred, I am the only survivor of my family,” Zisblatt told me as she lowered her eyes and described to me the details of being separated from her mother. Irene and I sat in a cafeteria style booth just outside the gym of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center (JCC). She had just finished her daily workout and had greeted me with a smile like we had known eachother our whole lives. She told me story after story of the horrors of being a young girl alone in the concentration camps. She told me of the glimmers of hope she received from a young boy with a violin, and a friend with whom she didn’t have to speak any words. A girl a few years older than her whose connection would get them through each horrifying day. Her friend’s name was Sebka, and with tears in her eyes, Irene would tell me how Sebka would not get to live her life on this earth but instead would experience her freedom in heaven. She lost her life the day of liberation from illness.

For 50 years after being liberated from the camps Irene did not speak of the Holocaust. She knew no one would have listened or believed a child. When the movie “Schindler’s List” came out in 1994, she realized she had to begin talking about her experiences. There were lessons for humanity in each of her stories. At 90 years old Irene tells her story for Sebka, she tells her story to youth hoping that future generations will learn from it. It was an absolute honor to be on the receiving end of her words. We would meet again another day after another workout. She would have the same smile and heart full of hope waiting for me.

As I worked on her portrait watching the world day by day react to a deadly virus, financial crisis, protestors with guns, and families bickering with each other over their differing opinions, I’m sad knowing Irene can’t go to the gym, or speak to the many people eager to listen. I put my hand on the half painted canvas, closed my eyes and heard the words of this wise, wise woman…

“We have to find a way, we have to try.” “There is no room for hate.”

I have been so fortunate to have experienced extraordinary moments of love over the past few weeks. I am reminded of what Irene told me during our talks. The message of hope she and her friend Sebka spread throughout the camps was; This is temporary, the world is beautiful, life is beautiful, just hang on so you can live and experience it. If she could have that kind of hope then, surely we can have it now.

Inspiration for this portrait was taken from the moments Irene Zisblatt was sharing her stories with artist Lori Pratico.

To read more about Girl Noticed’s Holocaust Project or make a donation visit our page: “A People Forgot”

To nominate a survivor visit our nomination page: Nominate

“Love each other, forget about hate.”

Adele Besserman, Holocaust Survivor

“Telling”, Portrait Of A Survivor

Adele Besserman and I sat together for hours. Over a cup of tea and cookies, she told me the stories of her life.

I am a stranger to Adele, having met with her only once before, we had lunch so she could “get to know me” and I her. Her generosity in sharing her experiences with me filled my heart as I could see as long as I was willing to listen, she was willing to tell. She would tell me of her childhood in Poland. Just 9 years old she would tell me of how one night her father disappeared, she knew he was soldier. How along with her mother and sister they fled to her grandmothers house which would later become the ghetto. How eventually she ran and hid in the forest until being liberated.

Her story is one of perseverance, courage and the will to survive at an age where she had little understanding of what was actually happening. After her family was liberated, she would tell me of the struggles of moving from place to place, of not having a home to go back to. She would tell me how she discovered her love of dance and would grow into a young independent woman.

“Love each other, forget about hate.” words she would say with a sort of knowing. Knowing it really is that simple. Why don’t we get it?

We would look through photos and she would share both sad and happy memories. She would pull me in and make me no longer a stranger.

“Telling”
Inspiration was taken from the moments Adele Besserman was sharing her stories with artist Lori Pratico.

Adele Besserman was nominated to be noticed by Blake Starr.

If not now, then when? If not I, then who?

Although these words are not a direct quote from Adele Besserman, they are the words she lives by. “If not I then Who?” she would say to me as we talked. Adele shares her story often with teens and takes part in the March of the Living each year so youth can experience her story first hand. Adele celebrated her 90th birthday on March 24, 2020 and lives in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

To read more about Girl Noticed’s Holocaust Project or make a donation visit our page: “A People Forgot”

To nominate a survivor visit our nomination page: Nominate

Slowdown syndrome. It’s a thing.

There is ALWAYS something to do. Correction: there is always something that NEEDS to be done.

My mom had “stay at home mom” down to a science. Mondays were wash “the whites” laundry days, Tuesdays hands and knees scrub the kitchen floor, Wednesdays food shopping and dust the furniture, Thursdays strip the beds, Fridays homemade pizza, Saturdays deep clean, vacuum, polish etc. and Sunday was trash night. Those are the things I vividly remember being major priorities but I guarantee you there was always something that needed to be done. Let’s take a typical Saturday for example. I’m 9 and I have a Saturday morning softball game. This meant I walked to the park, played, and walked home. I’d come in our basement door to the familiar words, don’t step there I just washed the floor, and take those clothes off before you sit on the furniture. Mom was certainly too busy to come to a game, and how the game went was really here nor there. I can’t say it made me feel bad at the time, it didn’t, it was just normal to me. It was also normal to feel like if I wasn’t just as busy as my mom then I was doing something wrong. If I slept past 8:30-9:00am on a Saturday morning I’d awaken to a vacuum being run and banging into my bedroom door. Waking up with one eye open, mom would say “sorry, but I don’t have all day, I need to get things done.” Remember Saturday morning cartoons!? Scooby Doo and Hong Kong Phooey? Yes, those are the only two I remember because by 9:30, 10:00am at the latest, the tv needed to be turned off. Chores needed to be started or at the very least you needed to get dressed, go outside and do something.

So I wonder why today, when I am forced to slow down, stay at home and maybe even relax a little I feel guilty or like I’m doing something wrong? Working on a painting that isn’t a commission or directly related to making money, total waste of time. God forbid I’m watching tv, there are things around the house that NEED to be done! If I don’t have work today I should be spending every minute figuring out how I’m going to make a buck. Right?

Oh the anxiety of it all and I’m only on day 2 of Covid-19 being the cause of me not leaving the house for work! Since I was 4 years old (that’s how far back I can remember) I have been conditioned to believe that if I am not doing something “necessary” then I’m being , no… I am lazy. I am irresponsible and I am not enough. But here’s the real kicker, in the past it had to be one or the other. Either I was all busy or I was all do nothing. In other words I’d give into the lazy, I’m not enough feelings and actually be lazy and irresponsible. I’d ignore bills, let my house chores get out of hand, and dig a hole I could comfortably lay in, until it got uncomfortable and I was forced to get out and start doing again. It became a cycle, busy, lazy…busy, lazy… busy lazy. Eventually I’d burn out from the busy and if I didn’t want to end up homeless I better get over the lazy. I could never seem to find that healthy balance.

That is until I began accepting me for me. I realized my feelings and attitudes surrounding being busy weren’t actually mine, they were my mothers and had become mine. What if I could un-become them. Ok, I’m laughing, it’s not easy. Like I said day 2 of Covid-19 and I’m already feeling guilty, and have named a syndrome after it. The difference is, today I checked myself. I looked at what I was feeling and said why are you feeling that? Who says you have to feel that? I sat and thought about how I could balance a healthy slow down. I wrote this blogpost so I could even better examine my feelings about putting my feet up and doing nothing for 5 minutes. When I really think about it, my mom did let me relax, she even enjoyed when I relaxed but that isn’t the part I chose to remember or focus on because that wasn’t the part I let eat away at my self esteem. I knew I’d never be her, methodical about when and what needed to be done. I don’t clean behind things, I find an empty drawer and stick stuff in it and call it a day. But that’s ok, that’s me and today I have fewer stuffed drawers and organize a little more often. It all helps. Honestly I’m hoping that this slowdown, the time so many of us have been forced to take, gives us the chance to better examine who we are and why we are that way. Maybe even clean out a drawer or two. More importantly I hope it allows for growth and healing and new beginnings.

What are the guilty things that you carry around with you that aren’t yours to carry? How do you let go and relax? How do you find balance? Comment and share your thoughts. Most of all be well. ❤️

Contribution

This poster was made by artist Brooke Fischer for the Creative Action Network

I start each day when Gracie and Nikki, our pups, belly alarms go off. Gracie ever so softly licks my face until one eye opens. She then sits and stares at me until the other eye opens, by then her joyfulness has willed my body to move off the bed. Nikki is already dancing in front of her dish awaiting what I do believe is the highlight of her day. I simultaneously put food in their dishes, fill their water bowl and push the button on the coffee pot, not necessarily in that order. With my first cup of coffee in hand I then do what I believe is the most important thing of the day. I say, “God, thank you.” I take a minute to let my surroundings and all I have in my life sink in, and then I say, “Let me be open to learning and growing today. Let me be a force for good and let all I do be from selfless contribution.” That’s a tall order, but I figure if I can come even close to living each day like that, I’m living pretty well.

The corona virus. It’s not easy to focus on much of anything else. It’s 24/7 information overload and I’m pretty sure I’ve learned all there is to know about the proper way to wash my hands, the lifespan of the virus on hard surfaces, and the right and wrong way to wear a face mask, among other things. Of course like many creatives most of my events and projects have been cancelled. Unless the governor wants someone to live paint at one of his press conferences…um I don’t think my phone will be ringing anytime soon. Empowering girls just isn’t what people are thinking about. Understandably. Most disappointing is having to postpone the holocaust project I’ve been working on for the past six months. Noticing the women survivors still living in Broward County. It’s heartbreaking knowing they will go unnoticed or put “on hold” for even one more day. I know in my heart I will still make the project happen, but I can’t help but wonder until we get through this difficult time, how do I contribute? Especially when what I contribute doesn’t really seem to hold weight when literally the world has been held captive by this virus?

I’ll start with what I’m not doing. I will not contribute by adding to the stress and fear that so many people are feeling each day. This includes contributing my unsolicited opinion on social media. Nor will I soak up the opinions of others, my screen time is down 70%. I will not feel sorry for myself. There is no space for me to complain. I am reading more than ever, sucking up all the knowledge I can gather on all the things I never have time for. I’m going back to day one with Girl Noticed when no one knew what Girl Noticed was and I had to creatively figure out how to move people to notice. I’m excited for the possibilities ahead. I’m excited about the idea that I can make what I had originally set out to do, even better.

I have reinvented myself so many times in my life, but this time I realize no matter how long this thing lasts, no matter how much things change, I don’t need to reinvent myself because I finally know who I am. The force, the power all lies within. Nothing can change that. Life and all of its circumstances will happen. Things may not go the way I planned, but there is a plan. I don’t need to know it. I do know, that god willing, I’ll wake up tomorrow to puppy kisses, coffee and a prayer. Let me for just one more day  be open to learning and growing. Let me be a force for good and let all I do be from selfless contribution.

Be safe and be well. 

Thank you for noticing.

Painting “Notice Me” on the first Girl Noticed Mural in Hollywood, Florida. The next day early in the morning the city would paint over it thinking it was graffiti.

5 years ago I asked you to notice, and you did. You noticed an artist who possessed a lofty idea of spreading the powerful message of a girls worth. The idea to create 50 murals in 50 states in charcoal that would fade off the wall sending the message, if you left a girl unnoticed her value and self worth would fade away, just as the mural did.

Originally the project was to last 3 years, and during those initial years I had the empowering and uplifting support of Elizabeth Sanjuan, who traveled with me not only as the project’s photographer but as a friend who cracked the whip and made sure I stayed focused on my goals. Without Elizabeth and the support of her husband Ken Brown and Sharon Lane from Gallery 2014 in Hollywood, Fl. Girl Noticed may have never found its wings, and for that I have the utmost gratitude.

Of course anyone who has ever set out on an endeavor, especially one that is even bigger than themselves, knows that along the way things change, evolve, and often turn into something beyond what you ever could have imagined.

Girl Noticed did just that. With each state I visited, 15 to date, I discovered the possibilities that were bursting to be developed out of this project. Workshops, lectures, scholarships, communities coming together and holding public events to empower their girls were all created from an original yet simple idea of using art to spread a message. I became aware of the impact that could be made through the testimonies of girls and women who would pass by as I created the murals. Stories of how they often felt unnoticed and the empowering and inspiring message a mural would leave on their community. Stories of how they were witnessing the creation of something they never thought possible. I met powerful women already working tirelessly in their community for their community. Their only reward was knowing they might make a difference in the lives of others. By the way ladies, you’ve made a difference in mine.

Calcagno Cullen founder of Wave Pool Gallery and Sheryl Rajbhandari Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits in Camp Washington, Ohio
Deirdre Love, Executive Director of Teens with a Purpose, Norfolk, Virginia
Bathsheba Smithen, Executive Director Of Cage Free Voices, LLC (listen to her podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cage-free-voices-radio/id1156230609 )
Battle-Lockhart Tajala, Founder and Executive Director of Phenomenal Young Women, Inc
(Order her just released book “Purpose Pushers” here: Aikal Beaute https://purposedpublishingcompany.com/tajalalockhart/

Just a few pictured above, but the list of what these particular women do in their communities and beyond can not be contained in a caption. Truly inspiring.

There have been 35 murals created so far and each mural event has become more impactful. For example: The last mural created in Jackson, Mississippi was made possible by the Greater Jackson Arts Council. A local poet and civil rights Activist Margaret Walker Alexander and a silhouette of a girl reading, representing the girls who passed through the entrance of the school each day, were drawn larger than life on the exterior of Hardy Middle School. In what was considered an underserved community local officials and community leaders gathered to hold workshops for the female students and also held a beautiful mural unveiling that celebrated not only Miss Walker but the entire school and community. The Margaret Walker Alexander Foundation gave the girls journals with the promise of teaching them how to journal and creating an area by the mural for them to gather and hold a journaling club. Something that had never existed before at this school. Not only the girls but a community who typically would appear to go unnoticed were shown how valued they actually are. I know that if the perspective of just one girl was altered on what her future could hold, my job was done, and done well.

So many of you have been following and supporting since year 1 and yes this is year 5, well past the 3 year mark. But how do you stop something that keeps growing and becoming more with each experience? You don’t. You set even loftier goals and you begin to believe anything is possible. This year I hope to create murals in three more states. I have begun the process of launching a local endeavor recognizing and hearing the voices of the surviving women of the Holocaust that live in my own community. I’d like to take the project outside of the United States.

Your help has gotten me this far, and I thank you. Here’s to an empowering and inspiring year ahead.