“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
– Toni Morrison
Last week, I was surrounded by a group of women about to embark on another Dallas Public Voices fellowship. I was accepted as a Peer Coach for 2020 and have been so excited for this next round of writing to change the world. But there was something very different about this first convening. As we greeted old and new friends with elbow bumps instead of hugs, the scent of hand sanitizer made the air feel a little heavier.
Some of the fellows were trying to arrange travel plans for stranded loved ones, others waited to hear if their children’s school was canceled, and one even had to join us remotely because her son fell ill. These are not normal times.
I’ve been tasked with not only publishing at least two op-eds over the next three months, but also supporting a team of four new fellows through the writing and pitching process. And I felt crippled by anxiety. But I thought of a quote from Katie Orenstein, founder of The OpEd Project: “The story we tell becomes the world we live in.”
Our world might feel like it’s falling apart at the moment, but there is also a magical chance to define how we rebuild it. The things we write, say, do, and create now could change everything. I’m more thankful than ever to be an artist and surrounded by incredible creatives doing the work to inspire hope.
From a cardio dance party on YouTube to online music lessons or a youth zine project taking place remotely, there is a powerful resilience in art. As my friend Allison from OutLoud wrote, “The world needs your voice now, more than ever.”
Above all, this surreal moment in history reminds me how fleeting life is and how narrow the window we have in which to design our legacy. I know it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get back to business. But first, I think I’ll pause briefly to play piano, sing, and feel. Take care of yourselves and each other. And in the middle of this nightmare, don’t forget to dream.