St. Louis
Missouri, USA

In the light of a targeted incident of insensitivity on campus, that polarized segments of student body population at Washington University in St. Louis, members Connect 4 and RARA sought to restore solidarity and a sense of community through a public art piece, inspired by Candy Chang’s New Orleans project “Before I Die.”

While discussing the events that took place among themselves, roommates and subsequently members of Connect 4 and RARA, wondered of a way to use art and activism to create meaningful dialogue across the entire campus. One student mentioned and explained Candy Chang’s community project in New Orleans titled, “Before I Die.” It was from the initial prompt and after watching her TED talk that they decided to create a similar art project on campus, tailored toward our own community. They began brainstorming prompts that would spark dialogue, while also bearing in mind the need to address the issue of insensitivity and discrimination present on our campus.

One of the victims of the incident remarked that they felt as though their humanity was diminished, by not only the event itself, but also by the negative responses that followed. It was from this sentiment that we decided on “I am human because _____.” We didn’t want people to defend their humanity, rather we wanted to reaffirm the essence of our shared humanity, in spite of our supposed differences.

The chalkboards were designed and built within a couple days by members of Connect 4 and RARA. On the day they were to be displayed, a candle lit processional made through campus by students and faculty alike, in a show of solidarity for the victims of the event and all those on campus who feel less than safe due to their identities. The walk ended in front of the main campus library, where the boards were put on display. After a few students made remarks, those who participated in the walk and those passing by the library were encouraged to share what made them human…

The chalkboards remained up over night and into the next day, allowing passerby’s to add to the piece as they pleased. If they wanted, they could also read am explanation of the piece that was laminated and attached to one of the boards.

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