- Helanius J. Wilkins
Unintentionally it has been three months since my last blog post. Somehow in the ocean of all things, time slipped away without recognition. In the space between my January post and this one much has taken place ranging from the horrific to the hopeful. Among them – a mass shooting in my neighborhood’s King Sooper’s grocery store here in Colorado, the passing of a Georgia state law that triggered voter suppression tensions, the start of the trial over George Floyd’s killing, and the receiving of my two COVID-19 vaccination shots. All the extremes have made exhaustion the most uttered word to escape my mouth. More than a spoken word, I have been feeling the heaviness of it in a way that perhaps has left me numb at times. Pushing back against the numbness, I have been pouring energy into my art – the thing that resuscitates me, keeps me connected to my sense of resilience, particularly in times when everything seems too much to bear.
In Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, resilience is defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” With the seemingly endless stream of disruptions socially, politically, and personally being faced by so many, I have been contemplating the reality of a perpetual resilient body. I first began reflecting on this notion back in September 2020 while arriving at new language about what I am harnessing through my current multi-outcome inter- and multimedia project, The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-Body Belonging. Up until recently, I recognized resilience within my body as perseverance, stamina, malleability, and strength. I am now calling into question the sheer fatigue, the wear-and-tear, on my body that emerges from constantly having to endure and then be malleable and strong. As a result of my questioning, I am reconsidering how choice-making and reorientation to others (and the world around me) can be a source for diverting away from the fatigue that drains my energy rather than fuels me. In this moment I hear Resmaa Menakem’s voice in my head reminding me "to check for all the exits when I enter into a space,” and that I can always leave. He was communicating this in relation to the complexities of doing anti-racist work, and the varied groupings that are required to effectively do the work while minimizing the potential of re-traumatizing the oppressed in these situations. The reminder that I do not have keep myself in spaces that re-traumatize me is important because it is something that can easily be forgotten, especially when in homogenous communities.
In the bigger scheme of things, I hug and hold art really close. It is my protection blanket, my joy, and a vehicle that allows me to go bravely and courageously all-in navigating the extremes of discomfort and uncertainty, something that the personal introverted Helanius might think twice about. My marriage to art-marking/art-actioning constructs a space filled with inspiration, energy, and hope, a space that is more common for me to reside in than not. But, in everyday circumstances, the choice-making and reorienting can become a little trickier. I have to remember that rerouting does not always have to be grand or require a production. I have to remember that sometimes the dance is simply being ok with saying No and giving myself the grace to know that that choice is alright. There is no need for guilt, a default feeling connected to my Christian upbringing that still comes up from time to time when I have made a clear choice to not do or not want to be a part of something.
My southern, Christian upbringing also links me to prayer. Part of this prolonged period without writing a blog post has been the result of searching – searching for what to say, how to put into words only what the experience of my body can hold and feeling pulled by what feels right for me to write about. I woke up one morning last week with a spark. Maybe what I am aching to write is a prayer – one that asks for guidance, courage, and protection while also asking, for the one-millionth time, why new casualties seem to overshadow righting wrongs and what will it take for all to genuinely care enough about greater humanity to untether from violence, hypocrisy, and greed. Although this outcome may not look like it, perhaps the glue that is holding this piece together is recognizing that it is my version of a prayer:
A wish for something different.
A reminder that “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
A light illuminating a path toward the thing that I cannot put into words, but sense is anchored in unconditional love.
A dance that activates a global call-and-response of unity and harmony versus separation and discord.
An audacity to hope that continues to shift the air in spaces I inhabit.
A commitment and deeper actioning to doing no less than loving boldly.
Top Image: Studio Session.
Photography by Christopher Michael Carruth ©December 2019.