Creativity Is Activism

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

I have a confession to make. I cheated a little bit and strayed from my reading goal this week. I had a book come up on my library hold list (and as I’ve said before, I love the library) and jumped at the chance to get it.

But, if I was going to cheat, How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation, edited by Maureen Johnson, was the title to do it with. The book is an anthology bringing together writers and activists of all colors, genders, and religions. So while some of the contributors are men, the underlying message was about positivity and empowerment, which I thought fit well with my theme for this year.

The practical information in this book about how to get in touch with representatives and be part of the political process is so important and valuable, but there was one overarching theme in each piece that hit me more than any other:

Creativity is a form of activism.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash


It is such a simple concept, and yet it’s not always easy to remember. Art matters, words matter, voices matter, movement matters. Art and creativity in any form is an individual’s way of putting their voice and ideas out into the world. And more voices there are out there, the more perspectives are out there, which will hopefully lead to more dialogue and acceptance and all those beautiful things.

The fantastic thing about creativity is that it comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be harnessed by all who choose to use it and is genuinely egalitarian in that anyone can make that choice. True, there are a variety of different platforms for people to share their creativity, many of which give more exposure to some over others, but truly creative people are establishing new forms every day. They are making sure that new voices are heard every day. Even if you only choose to share your creativity with family and friends, you are actively adding something to their lives, and that matters.

Because each new voice is different because every human is different, and the more we can highlight and learn from those differences and eventually, with a lot of hard work and patience and reflection, learn from them.  The more we learn, the stronger we are to hate and negativity. This has been something I’ve been trying to do in my reading this year, but maybe now is the time to start exposing myself to other creative endeavors as a way of taking in more.

I want to give this book to everyone I know, not just young people, because it sends such an important message about standing up for yourself and making sure your voice is heard. It’s true that this book was born as a response to the 2016 US presidential election and leans left, but I would still give it to people I know regardless of political affiliation. This book carries so much hope about creativity and celebrating everyone that I think everyone can learn from. Hopefully, we can collectively use our creativity to bring about some positive change.


Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash


Can We Ever Learn from Our Mistakes? (Some Thoughts on and Beyond Damnation Island by Tracy Horn)

IMG_0548One of the reasons I love reading nonfiction is that I get to learn so much. Not only does the book itself satisfy my mind’s need for new information, but an excellent nonfiction book will also lead me to topics outside the main subject of the book. I will go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and find myself down there two hours later and realize it’s one in the morning and I need to go to sleep.

Tracy Horn’s Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, & Criminal in 19th-Century New York did not disappoint. It gave a detailed history of the horrors of what was once called Blackwell’s Island but also introduced me to political figures and historical events in New York that I looked up on my own. I have lived in New York for almost ten years now, and I appreciate it when an author focuses in on one part of the city but provides historical context so that I can learn more about the city I love.

But even though I love this city, it’s hard to deny that it has a dark and somewhat shameful past, especially after reading this book. The conditions that existed for New York’s sick, poor, and mentally ill were atrocious and allowed to be so for years. I imagine that this was true in a lot of areas but was exacerbated by the city’s enormous population.

But still, when reading this, I found it hard to fathom how this could be tolerated for so long, especially when it came to the treatment of women on the island. Horn spends a lot of time talking about the female patients at the asylum because it was a mostly-female facility. The most striking thing to me was that many families committed women as a way to get rid of them, and not because they were indeed mentally ill. When I read that, I have to wonder how many suffered because they may have had a dissenting opinion or were just “different.” At another location of the island, the Almshouse, widows found themselves overcrowded because they had nowhere else to go after their husband’s died.

And yet, is it really that hard to believe? While I don’t think there is a practice of warehousing widows in facilities with abusive staff with little food and no space or privacy of their own, it is easy for me to see that a lot of the ideas about women that existed in the 19th century still perpetuate today. Many women who report sexual assaults and abuses are not believed. We are often accused of being “moody” and “too sensitive.” This is not to say that nothing has improved for women, because I know that is not true. The last 100+ years have obviously brought about a lot of positive change for women, but there is still a long way to go.

We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to the more vulnerable members of society. I mentioned in a previous post that I often see a homeless man on my commute who is clearly mentally ill. I have to believe there is a better option to be had for him than being on the street or in a facility like what was on Blackwell’s. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I hope we find one soon.


Photo credit: I can’t remember if I took this, or if it was my fiancé, but this is the abandoned Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island (formerly Blackwell’s Island).  The island is now full of condos and academic facilities, but some of it’s past is still present.