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The CREATE Initiative

Updated on November 27, 2016

Toni Morrison on Art and Healing


The CREATE Initiative

Singer/songwriter Kathy Mar has organized a KINDNESS campaign on social media and in real life, urging people to be kinder to one another. I have an idea for another campaign: CREATE.

In Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Princess Leia explains to Luke why she became a rebel. She was bored. Why was she bored? Censorship of art, literature, and music led to boring art, literature, and music. Why was it censored? A story can be a parable. A painting can be a declaration. A symphony can be a manifesto. Upon finding out why she was bored, she dug deeper and became a Rebel.

We can write parables. We can perform manifestos. Sing. Compose. Write. Perform. Draw. Sculpt. Blog. Remind Americans of our better selves. Remember our rights and responsibilities as citizens, lest those rights be washed away.


Sneak It Past the Censors

On Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry was able to sneak comments on the Vietnam War, racism, and other issues of the 1960s past the censors by setting it in space. Allegory is a wonderful way to say something without getting in trouble with the Powers that Be ... especially since our new president-elect doesn't seem to understand or respect the First Amendment.

Arthur Miller's The Crucible was not just a play about the Salem Witch Trials. It was an allegory about McCarthyism. George Orwell's Animal Farm was an allegory about the dangers of communism.

"I'm a product of a military dictatorship. Under a dictatorship, you cannot trust information or dispense it freely because of censorship. So Brazilians become very flexible in the use of metaphors. They learn to communicate with double meanings." Vik Muniz, Brazilian artist.

Write a Harry Potter fanfic about Voldemort muzzling the Daily Prophet, or Umbridge threatening to make Muggleborn students wear an identifying badge or ribbon. Some of your readers won't catch the connection, but others will know what you're really talking about.

Art Can Be More Than Pretty

Art doesn't have to be pretty. Sometimes, to tell the truth, art needs to be ugly.

Pablo Picasso's Guernica isn't pretty, but many art historians consider it one of the most powerful anti-war statements ever produced in art or words.

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms are pretty, but more importantly, they carry a message. Freedom of Speech shows an ordinary working man, speaking his mind at a city council meeting, with as much right to be heard as the men around him in suits and ties. Freedom of Worship shows many people praying, "each according to the dictates of his own conscience." Freedom from Want shows a family at the dinner table, about to eat Thanksgiving dinner, all healthy, happy, with enough to eat that they need not worry about hunger. Freedom from Fear depicts parents tucking their offspring into bed, knowing that the children are safe even though war (mentioned in the headlines of the newspaper the father holds) rages far away.

The photos in the "Strange Fruit" video below, and the pictures Ansel Adams took at Manzanar are ugly, but honest. If we are to make our country the best it can possibly be, we must acknowledge its flaws before we can correct them.

Big Mary of the Songs and Woody Guthrie

Mary MacDonald MacPherson (Mairi Mhor Nan Oran)
Mary MacDonald MacPherson (Mairi Mhor Nan Oran) | Source
Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie | Source

Folk Songs as Protests -- a Long and Proud Tradition

Songs have been a way of spreading news and opinions for millennia.

Big Mary of the Songs (Mary MacPherson, nee MacDonald) wrote beautiful songs in Gaelic about the treatment of the crofters in the Hebrides.

Woody Guthrie wrote and sang songs about social unrest and political injustice, including "Old Man Trump," about Fred Trump.

Billie Holiday sang "Strange Fruit," a song about lynching.

Blind Lemming Chiffon wrote a song about the Trump/Clinton election, "Donald Trump Must Lose," to the tune of "John Barleycorn Must Die." Cat Faber wrote "Still Here."

Write your own songs, or sing someone else's.

"Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song."

"Strange Fruit," by Billie Holiday [WARNING: Graphic Images]

Emery Cross, Donegal, Ireland

The Emery Cross, planted by Liam Emery
The Emery Cross, planted by Liam Emery | Source

Landscaping as Art: Your Garden Can Speak for You

In the late Janet Kagan's Hellspark, it's pointed out that some people regard landscaping as a form of art and others don't. Yes, landscaping can be just as artistic as drawing a picture or making ceramics. Don't let anyone tell you different.

The Emery Cross, shown above, is a prime example of landscaping as art. It took ten years to reach its current state of progress. Liam Emery never lived to see it grown to maturity, but his work will survive him, experts estimate, for six or seven decades.

Everyone has seen gardens that have designs, from the floral Mickey Mouse just below the Main Street, USA railway station at Disneyland to the letter M for Memphis greeting visitors by the Memphis airport to colleges with their initials or logos in flowers to European castles and mansions that have planted gardens in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, a St. Andrew's cross, or a coat of arms. You can do something similar on a smaller scale.

Plant red, white, and blue flowers. Arrange your garden into a flag pattern, or use mosaics to make a pattern. Put a flag in your garden. You don't need to worry that topiary art is beyond you. As Janet Kagan said in Uhura's Song, "Diamonds and dynamite come in small packages."

Make a Statement with Your Garden

Red Poppy
Red Poppy | Source
White Tulips
White Tulips | Source
Blue Hydrangea
Blue Hydrangea | Source

God Bless America

Teach Patriotism

Teach your children -- and yourself -- what America is, as well as what it's supposed to be. Don't let anyone, not even the president-elect, drag it down to less than it should be, less than it can be.

"He who loves not his country, can love nothing." George Gordon, Lord Byron

Tell them stories of American history and American heroes: Phillis Wheatley and Pauli Dunbar, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, George Washington and George Washington Carver. Show them movies that focus on our past, and discuss what's accurate and what Hollywood changed for the sake of the story.

Sing to them the songs of our land: "This Land is Your Land" and "The Heart of the Appaloosa" and"The Star Spangled Banner" and "All On a Beautiful Morning" and "Hope Eyrie." Tell them the stories behind the songs. Remind them of the most important part of "America the Beautiful," the lines in the second verse that say, "America, America, God mend thy every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law."

"Confirm ... thy liberty in law." Remember that.

Make sure they understand. Take the time to explain to them, just as Red Skelton explained the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Pledge of Allegiance, as Explained by Red Skelton

I'm Just a Bill


How Can I Do Anything? I'm Not Artistic.

Everyone can do something. Sing Schoolhouse Rock's Preamble to the Constitution. Show your kids or grandkids the videos on YouTube or buy them the DVD for Christmas or Hanukkah. Use I'm Just a Bill and Three Ring Circus to teach how bills become laws and the system of checks and balances.

Draw a picture of the Appalachians or the flag. Use clay to make a model of your state bird. Make a website; write a blog. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Contribute. Create.

We've just elected a man to the White House who thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax. Therefore, do what you can to save the environment. It may not be art, but it's definitely a form of public service. Set an example for your children and your neighbors.

Keep America Beautiful

Now is the Time to Create

"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." Toni Morrison

"That's what we storytellers do.We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again." Walt Disney

"Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have." H. G. Wells

It is time to create. It is time to educate. It is time to preserve civilization.


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    • SusanMMacdonald profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan M Macdonald 

      3 years ago from USA

      Thank you.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      This was inspiring. I am particularly upset about what his presidency will mean for reproductive rights, the environment and civil rights. I don't know where to start, but it'll be with my pocketbook and my daily choices. We must all speak up about injustice large and small in our own communities when we see it, else we get this type of result.


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