Photography & Narrative By Zakkiyyah
The SEEDS Project by Black Girl In Om (BGIO) interrogates the current nationwide and global violence in black and brown communities. In light of recent events involving black and brown bodies affected by state violence and inter-community violence, SEEDS was first activated as an interdisciplinary art engagement piece. Visitors had the opportunity to plant their own seeds, be photo-documented, and offer written opinions, solutions, ideas, drawings, or feelings about inter-community and state violence.
Before SEEDS was initiated, Lauren Ash and I were inspired by a quote we heard often in the wake of protests after 43 students in Mexico were massacred: “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” We were so moved and inspired by these words that we decided to address the significance behind them, as well as further cultivate our understanding of growth and resistance in communities of color. Our belief is that this project will allow individuals from diverse communities to engage with both environmental materials while addressing concerns in their own communities/environments.
As a photographer, a critical part of my mission is using visualization and storytelling to highlight the struggles, yet beautiful narratives that exist within the black experience, as well as that of other systemically marginalized cultures.
I am forever inspired by the resilience and consistency of hope that has been maintained by not only myself but communities that have been directly affected by violence and pain. This particular photo-story re-imagines new ways of being, living, and connecting in our communities. I was particularly drawn to how closely my own personal growth, and the growth I’ve witnessed so closely resembled that of plants. I found it necessary to include visual ideas of growth (soil, plants, etc) in order to convey the importance of life and vitality.
I thought about the current Black Lives Matter movement during the direction of this series, the importance of my own life and those around me. Living in a society that is dictated by systemic racism, oppression, greed, social and judicial inequality, and other various disparities, what does it mean to envision a life outside of that? What would it mean for people of color to live in a society that is holistically nurturing and life-giving? I asked myself these questions during my photographic process and envisioned a world where all of this would be possible. In fact, I firmly believe that these possibilities reside in a radical imaginary that is never fully satisfied with our current state of being, but always seeks alternative ways of existing and achieving our desires.
In January, we launched SEEDS as a participatory art engagement piece at the closing reception of Fultonia Now, which was a year long engagement that forwarded the legacy of Dr. Alvenia Fulton, naturopathic pioneer. Dozens of Chicago artists, creatives, activists planted seeds and wrote their thoughts in reaction to our project. Here are just some of their responses:
“I matter. You matter. BLACK LIVES MATTER. Our lives matter. We matter. How can we co-exist if we don’t attempt to feel deeply for one another?”
“I think it is necessary to plant flowers where this is pain. I think it’s necessary to continue to grow hope where nothing but despair exists. I think that we have to continue to be sweet to each other. Our acts of kindness, our care of ourselves and each other will carry us through”
“Our energy brings life. PLANT. PLANT. PLANT!”
“To heal community violence, become a community. Nothing reduces violence like knowing each other”
“When I hear about revolution, there is always this underlying message that death is inevitable. The question is always “what are you willing to die for?” Well, I’d like to shift that conversation to speak LIFE into the revolution and ask, “what are you willing to LIVE for?” To build intercommunity and heal from violence against black and brown bodies, I want to put love at the center of the revolution. LOVE is often assumed but not explicitly stated. By giving love and life, it moves pass the state of reactionary protest into a space of healing and transcendence. And no matter what community you come from, LOVE resonates with everyone. So to build intercommunity and combat state violence, I affirm my own humanity and the humanity of others through love!”
“Every idea starts as a seed. We can’t see progress if we don’t plant.
We can’t see progress if don’t water, fertilize and nurture each other”
“The first step to curing violence is to acknowledge that one cannot cure violence alone. Still, one is able to propel the process through self analysis. How is one violent? Where is that space in one’s being? How does one pivot away from violence? How many perspectives of violence exist? How many perspectives is one willing to accommodate? One has to be the beginning. There is no solution to satisfy the varieties of separate, equally vast persons. Violence is not much more than a developed mentality, or a consciousness rather. If one could understand, or attempt to, begin to....understand one’s own psychology about one’s own violence, then that would be enough…”
Everything we say and do starts as a seed, and it grows… what we do, what we say aids in the growth of whatever seed we plant”
“There is nothing better than adversity. Every defeat, every loss, every heartbreak, contains its own seed, its own lesson...on how to improve your performance the next time.”
“A healthy spirit ensures a healthy and present mind”
Let's continue SEEDS. Plant a seed (we recommend basil) and write your opinions, solutions, ideas, drawings, or feelings about inter-community and state violence. We want to hear from you! Send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "SEEDS."