by Abby Fanara, Volunteer Communications Lead

renaissance after the plague by luis-alfonso-orellana

Renaissance After the Plague by Luis Alfonso Rellana

2020 is a year none of us will forget (as much as we may want to!).

Systems of injustice are being confronted head on in the midst of a pandemic. This year has been full of shock, pain, adaptation, and growth for many of us. One thing that I keep coming back to as I have difficult conversations with my friends, family, and in my own internal reflection, is something I heard in an adult workshop at Art from Ashes: “Suspend your disbelief.”

Another piece of wisdom I return to these days is “Pessimism is the language of the oppressor.” Both of those phrases struck me, as someone steeped in privilege who has historically dismissed my more “radical” friends’ ideas of change.

My pessimistic view of what was possible kept me comfortable in an unjust system, and also contributed to the suffering of others.

I don’t believe there is use in ignoring reality. In fact, I think that’s harmful. But once we confront reality—which is uncomfortable but necessary work, especially for those of us who have the privilege of studying injustice rather than living through it—what are our options moving forward? Do we believe that nothing will change OR do we believe that change is possible and then join in creating that change?

As a volunteer at Art from Ashes and an adult workshop participant, I have been inspired by the AfA community’s resilience and ability to come up with creative solutions in a challenging time. In the midst of the pandemic, they’ve been able to do more with less by developing Writing Kits specifically for youth facing barriers to internet access. They’ve continued workshops and First Friday performances virtually for youth, and have even extended writing and creativity prompts to adults on social media. AfA’s ability to pivot comes not only from their dedication to youth empowerment, but because of their curriculum.

Art from Ashes embraces the practice of suspending disbelief (taught in their creative workshops) and have discovered creative solutions for what seemed like impossible problems.

I am following their lead.

In a time when feeling powerless is a frequent result of my doom-scrolling, I am committed to suspending my disbelief. I believe I have the power to contribute to a future that I never could have imagined for myself and my community—a future that is already being pursued by organizations like AfA and other progressive community leaders, including activists, artists, and writers.

I choose to embrace radical creativity, radical imagination, and radical hope by supporting our youth.