Art as a Forum for Justice

Our friend, Belle Alvarez, is a professional dance instructor and performer in Philadelphia, as well as a member of the Carnival de Resistance 2016 crew. Below she shares her thoughts on embodiment, art, and justice.

11412163_10153899670930808_9013857629456385551_oIf justice is about making right relationships in the world, then art is the gateway that roots humanity in beauty, compassion, wonder, and empathy-the things that make us human. What does being “human” mean?

During my pastor’s sermon last Sunday at Circle of Hope, we had a discussion on what holiness looks like. In Leviticus, Yahweh (Old Testament name for God, roughly translates to ‘I am’) says “Be holy, because I am holy.” Holiness doesn’t start and end with personal piety. The bigger picture show that holiness start with belonging to God and relating to those who bear the Creator’s image equitably. That looks like not taking more than what you need, acting mercifully towards the poor, and resting from work on a weekly basis because the community knows the Creator will give generously towards the needs of each day. Our humanity is connected to our holiness. Belonging to God calls for a life of justice that reflects right relationships to one another. So art inspires holiness through doing the grassroots work of justice: relating to one’s neighbor.

Who you are starts with what you embody. The longer I dance, the more nuances I find in what the body knows and what the body can communicate. Experiential memory and how my body responds to a particular recollection is fodder for my research. I see culture shared and reflected through movement in the media, in social forms, and in performance. Artists create culture and culture is shared. An artist is essentially an architect of the metaphysical.

Creative modalities have a way of probing the human psyche and in turn swaying what we love, fear, and long for; as well as how one’s reality is perceived. 

“Artists are trained in giving life to what is not yet seen, a task close to the Creator’s heart, and seeing the best of a community come to fruition.”

14502828_10153876208565808_3057896778196954716_nWith creative modalities such as performance, visual art, and writing, artists have a platform for storytelling, conveying the essence of someone’s experience, and uniting communities around a common journey or theme. This sensory experience plays an important role in cultivating empathy where there may be division. As a leader and facilitator of movement working with children and adults throughout Philadelphia, I see community centered practice as an opportunity for healing the way people relate to themselves and each other and the practice of art as a real life experiment in growth, succeeding through challenges, and collaboration. Art is an opportunity to be exposed to a story from several points of view and to create a new story together.

What art does for justice movements is spread awareness and messages of solidarity and hope. Art gives form and resonance to a message and to the stories from the keepers of the community. Art is a vehicle in making vivid what is yet to be fully seen, in accentuating the holy core of humanity along with the responsibility to live equitably.

Stay connected with Belle!