There is an important integration that seems to happen at the pivotal moment when a piece of our multifaceted identity is finally witnessed and seen. It feels akin to magic, like the moment the Velveteen Rabbit is granted its long-awaited wish and becomes real. Parts of ourselves when seen and acknowledged, become tangible and more fully a part of who we are. Any kind of self expression, when met with compassion and care, allows us to embrace and potentially heal what feels separate and othered. I learned this important lesson initially through sharing my writing and art. Creativity taught me to be brave with who I am.
Back in 2015, well into my Wishstudio years of sharing artful inspiration and building creative community, the seed for the Be Seen Project was planted. It began as a vision, imagining a space for people to share shadow parts of themselves mostly hidden away. I was already well into my own journey of excavating and reclaiming my marginalized identities… as a woman, as a queer person, and as a transracial adoptee of color. It has been through my own self re-discovery, alongside my growth as a facilitator, community builder and activist, where I began to truly experience and understand the importance and power of being seen.
With the fallout of Covid19 and the newly ignited racism against Asian Americans as a result, I knew it was time to put this project to work even though the clarity of our mission was still crystalizing. /What I did understand with certainty was, that it was time for me to stop centering whiteness (the systems of conformity and oppression, not the color of people’s skin) and finally build a community that more fully reflected who I am.
The day after I created the Be Seen Project IG platform, I heard about George Floyd’s murder. In that moment, our purpose was galvanized – to create resources, community and space for BIPOC – Black, indigenous, people of color – artists and makers creating work as activism. What I didn’t know until that moment was that I also created a space for myself to step in fully in all of my intersecting identities. I no longer needed to push the most integral parts of myself to the margins of my own life. The Be Seen Project is not only an initiative that fully aligns my beliefs and values, it provides a space for me to embody all the parts of myself I previously made quiet and small to fit into constructs of oppression. It allows me to be wholly expressed and seen.
So, this is the mission of this project: to shine a light on those who have also been systemically devalued and marginalized and provide opportunity and resources to help share their art, their struggles and their world view front and center. This is how we shift culture. As artists we have the power not only to influence culture, but to create and help build a new narrative. For so long I held such a narrow view of what creative community looked like and how it functioned, but as soon as I created the Be Seen Project my entire perspective expanded. I realized what a narrow niche of privilege I had been living and working inside of. Breaking down those barriers invited more liberation and ultimately the kind of diversity and potential impact I had been seeking all along.
I also realized without having to dig very deep, that it is primarily people of culture (a term Resmaa Menakam, author of My Grandmother’s Hands, uses instead of “people of color”), who are building important global movements for social and racial justice. The #metoomovement, Black Lives Matter, #sayhername, and the Pussy Hat movement all were founded or co-founded by BIPOC women. It makes perfect sense that those who are systemically oppressed would rise up to organize and create necessary change, a truth that white feminism and the broader “girl power” movements often leave out. The future is not female. It is decidedly non-binary in every tangible and theoretical way possible.
The artists and initiatives we aim feature on the Be Seen Project come from different cultural diaspora, economic lenses, gender expressions, and social backgrounds. What they all have in common are their fierce creative voices pushing back against harmful dominant narratives, bringing awareness to a wide range of human rights issues seeking to actually create more “liberty and justice for all”.
Diane Ivey of Lady Dye Yarns, helped found the Empower People Project, a knitting and craftivism initiative helping to increase political engagement within our crafting community to get out the vote. Sarah Trail’s Social Justice Sewing Academy teaches people to sew for impact, healing and change, creating Quilts of Remembrance for victims of violence. Cannupa Hanska Luger and Marie Watt are using community embroidered bandanas as part of their Each/Other collaborative installation at the Denver Art Gallery. All of our initiatives are Creative Calls to Action and meant to invite you as a maker and artist to put your skills to work and get involved! You can get more info on how to take part in these projects by visiting our website at www.beseenproject.org
Other ways you can support the Be Seen Project and help us make a creative impact: listen to our podcast, subscribe to our print zine, donate skills and resources that help us fund artist micro-grants like Darci Kern’s #knittingwhileblack photo recreation series, become an advocate, become a Sponsor or part of our Cohort.
Together, we can create the revolution one project at a time.