The Light

Today we met Mama Sol.

“I’m not in the dark.  I won’t be able to give anyone a horror story of Flint.”

This is a woman who knows so much.  As she tells her story we are captivated by the rhythm and sounds of her voice.  She tells us her truth, and speaks of the importance of “The Light-bearers.”

“I don’t see what other people see.  But that’s a choice.  We have to be responsible for the choices we make that design our happiness.”

As we listen to her, the light is a continuous thread in her narrative.  I think about darkness: fear, misunderstanding, lack of information, anger, despair, violence; they all seem to fill a dark void that opens up when so many people think about this community.  This void has swallowed up expectations and possibilities.  It is heavy with darkness.  This is a woman who makes a conscious choice to stay away from the void; to find beauty in clarity in simple human interaction.  Her Flint is beautiful.  As so many people stop by our table to greet her, and subsequently, meet us, it is clear that her vision of Flint is widespread—they all feel the light.

We talk about all of the articles and new stories, the media representation of this city and its people.

“How many times are you going to tell this story.”

We are tired of the sensationalized drama we keep seeing online, or on TV.  Blight, violence, crime—these are all relevant parts of the story.  They speak to deeper truths that have run in the lifeblood of this community for over a century.  But where do we go from here?  Isn’t that the more important story to tell?  I think so.  I think about this project, and the importance of sharing the history and investigating the systems and practices that got this city to its current state; I also think about the importance of directing attention to stories like Mama Sol’s, stories of the light. 

In this process, I find my self in a constant state of inquiry.  I am always checking in with myself—checking my assumptions and expectations, my privilege, my own biases born out of my own experiences.  In many ways, this is incredibly important.  By maintaining a constant awareness of these thought processes, I think I have a greater chance of telling a truthful story that speaks to the collective identity of a community and also honors individual contributions to that identity.  I am also aware of the significance of my role as the artist, and the importance of having a point of view.  These are all checkpoints that I constantly return to every chance I get, and I will use them as a guide when I begin to structure the piece that we are starting next week.  Also:

Why am I doing this?

Why am I doing this with dance?

Why does this matter?

What do I want to accomplish?

After our interview, Brooke and I take Amy on a driving tour of the city.  We visit landmarks that are both personal and universal for this community.  We visit the Carriage Factory and the site of the Sit-Down Strike.  We also drive through neighborhoods where people live and have lived.

Today we met Jacky King.

This is another individual who believes in this city.  He frequently refers back to a vision of Flint and Genesee Country ten years from now, and speaks of how it will flourish, how it will have so much meaning in the lives of so many.  He has clear sense of loyalty, and a desire for others in the community to respond to a call to make a difference.   He has faith in young people.  He too speaks of the light.

How does the light shape the narrative we are trying to craft?