Hi there! I’m a JJ who loves to paint, and while there is much to be said about that, let’s get to the point of this evening and what I’m doing here (by the way, I’m stoked to be here!) I was invited to come paint live for this event and curious as to what it was all about and who it was benefiting, I did what any good old fashioned person would do… I googled it.
I believe in painting with purpose because I believe I was created to paint, and not just paint but paint with the power of story in mind. And after my google search, so began the story of MADE IN THE STREETS intertwining with the stories I paint and thus bringing me here tonight.
I watched a short film about five students of MADE IN THE STREETS in Nairobi, Kenya. MITS is a school dedicated to not just getting kids off the streets, but offering them a fulfilling life in place of the emptiness and short-lived highs that the world has to offer. MITS is dedicated to nurturing the individual to be their true self, to not be defined by their circumstances, surroundings, or what they’ve been told about who they should be. Being our true self is something all of us need, no matter what part of the world we live in, whether we know it or not.
I love the power of story and how it can so beautifully be visualized in a movie or short film. Different people will always pick up or be drawn to different messages throughout a story. These are the three things that stuck out to me as I watched this short film by David Hutchinson:
1. Amina, a female student, was asked if she could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Her answer was men (boys) who disrespect women, men who rape and beat and abuse… that is what she would change so that it no longer happened.
2. Glue is the number one drug used on the streets of Nairobi for people to get high, check out, numb out and escape from the current state they find themselves in. It’s cheap, it’s available, it’s everywhere. The high takes away the pain for a moment, only making it more and more desirable so the pain doesn’t have to be dealt with once the high wears off.
3. At the end of the film a student named Moses, who aspires to be a chef and change the world around him, was asked “if there was one thing you wanted Americans to know about you, what would it be?”
His response: “I would want them to know… how far I want to go.”And so the title of the short film came about… HOW FAR I WANT TO GO.
Tonight as I paint I will be carrying these three things in my thoughts and prayers as I translate the music into colors. These three things will be the driving force behind the painting.
Why do these three things stick out to me?
1.) Amina. I cried at her response. I cried because it’s the most honest and beautiful response a young girl could give. For me, as a girl on the other side of the world who has also been affected by what Amina desires to change, I stand with her and admire her courage and her boldness to voice her distaste for injustice.
This isn’t to say men are the problem and women are the victims. This is to say there is a people problem… people seeking to satisfy the emptiness they feel, some with sex, some with glue, some with alcohol, some with work… fill in the blank.
There are moments when we all feel it, that emptiness, and there are things that we do to make it go away… for a moment. Given Amina’s experience, she desires to not see other girls go through the same thing, to not see men use girls to deal with their own emptiness… because someone who would violate another human being in such a way has to be just that… empty, or the opposite… full of pain refusing to be dealt with.
2.) I found it heartbreaking that glue is used as an escape, that even something as simple as glue, something meant to be helpful, something meant to keep things together is being used to harm and make people fall apart. This goes to show that it doesn’t have to be an obvious “bad thing” like drugs or excessive alcohol that people use to cope, creating a problem in their lives. People can take any good thing and make it “bad” based on how
they use it and what they use it for. It has been in our human nature to take something good and twist it so that it harms us, and then we blame that thing for being bad instead of owning our abuse of it.
Glue is not a bad thing and so long as glue is being blamed for the people’s problems, we will miss it. Glue is being used by people to deal with their problems and so in that sense it has become harmful to them. There was a problem long before the glue arrived. If we remove the glue without dealing with the heart issue, something else will be found to cope and we will spend a lifetime trying to remove things instead of nurturing broken hearts.
I found it interesting that I would be painting tonight because I use a lot of glue in my artwork. I use glue to secure in secret messages, ones of hope and love and life. I layer them on with glue and I paint over them so that each painting has a deeper meaning. I even take scripture, dip it in glue and attach it to many of my pieces. For me, glue holds the truth of my paintings together, and in that sense, for this evening, even the glue is being redeemed.
And not just the glue, but the people who use it. As I glue truth to my painting I pray for those who use glue as an escape to be set free from it. And while many people on the streets in Nairobi and elsewhere in the world need to stay away from glue, I will step in for them and use it for good, layering truth upon truth, love upon love, hope upon hope and color upon color, sticking it all together to form this painting that I pray brings a little more color into some of the world’s dark spots.
3.) Moses. What a beautiful name for a beautiful boy with a beautiful spirit. Of all of the things he could have said he wanted Americans to know about him, he said “I want them to know HOW FAR I WANT TO GO.” His drive inspired me, and not only did I want him to go far, but I wanted to go far too, I think we all do in some capacity, to live out more fully who we were meant to be. I was inspired by Moses being Moses, and because of that I wanted to be me, and though we may be different, it is vital that Moses be himself and that I be myself.
We are all wired and created so uniquely for a reason, and the more freedom we have to be ourselves, the more we can set others free to be themselves, encouraging them to not check out of life but to embrace it in it’s fullness. I think what the world struggles with is people who don’t know they matter and are valuable.
Each life matters. Each life. But most people either forget or they don’t know and so they either check out or they fend for themselves and before we know it, we’ve all turned against each other.
But the truth is, we are loved, all of us, we all matter and so we don’t have to fight each other to see who matters more or who matters at all. We all matter, each person matters, each story matters. I believe this is true because I believe there is a God who is made of love and so He created us out of love and His intention for us is love and He wants us to give and receive love. Some information got clouded along the way, as with any story told over a long period of time, but the basics are still there, that there is a God, who I often times don’t understand, but who I know loves us and sees us, even when (if not especially when) we are in those dark and hurting places.
I believe that this God wants us to go far, and I believe that those who choose to go far in life will. Moses, you will go far. Amina, you will go far. The other three people featured in the film: Francis, Dennis, Eddie, you will go far. David, who made the film, you will go far. And all of the other students, teachers, interns and volunteers at MADE IN THE STREETS, you will go far.
Those of you performing tonight, cooking tonight, speaking tonight, cleaning tonight, serving tonight, you will go far. Those of you listening and watching tonight, you will go far. So long as you make up your mind that far is where you want to go, you will go far. Moses, this American has heard you and knows this to be true about you… you will go far.
And so, it is with the names of the students from MADE IN THE STREETS, along with words that I believe were spoken over them or to them as I prepared for this evening, I began the canvas. I wrote the names and words on a blank canvas and this is what I will be painting over tonight, leaving the deeper message hidden behind the colors of life’s mess made beautiful. It is a composition of color and truth, hope and redemption, life and value, all held together with pieces of scripture, a little glue and a lot of love.
This message is just as true for all of us here tonight as it is for these students when they voiced their desire for it…
You will go far!
(this is the canvas that will be painted over this evening)
See original newsletter here: MITS
See short film at www.madeinthestreets.org