WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – On the surface, this summer camp looks like endless others. The colorful room is filled with excited voices, all spilling from children ages 8 to 11.
Art is often an expression of the most complex human emotion: internal angst, turmoil or triumph. Below the paint strokes and cheerful colors for these young artists, there’s a dark shade of reality.
Each of the 15 artists knows a person who was killed through violence with guns.
J.J. Williams is 8 years old. He has 16 cousins who have died through violence with guns.
Aaliya Knight is 9 years old. Her cousin died so recently, she still speaks of him as if he’s living.
“My cousin is my best friend and he lets me play on his phone. And he like, plays with us kids,” she said.
Her self-portrait is splashed with various tones of pink, but she says she felt sad while she painted it, thinking of her cousin.
“Some of it comes out in my art because everybody who has lost somebody has feelings for them, are sad,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control report 22 percent of Americans know a person killed by another person with a gun, 28 percent know a person who has used to commit suicide using a gun. The statistics touch people of every age, region of the country, political part and income, though they do vary somewhat by race.
With help in partnerships, the Norton Museum of Art offers afterschool PACE (http://www.norton.org/pace) art programs to children living in underserved portions of Palm Beach County. PACE stands for Progressive Afterschool Art Community Education. Teachers aim to help students develop self-esteem while being exposed to worldly arts programs.
This summer, a 10-session program partnered with the Mothers Against Murderers Association or M.A.M.A. http://mothersagainstmurderersassn.org/. It’s a group that aims to break the gun violence epidemic.
M.A.M.A. was started by Angela Williams in Riviera Beach.
This art program is titled “Becoming.” The effort aims to show children they can transform into their personal hopes for the future. The same program is available to all children in P.A.C.E. but it’s particularly important for these children, according to Williams.
Williams herself has been transformed since a fateful day in 2003. She lost her nephew, Torrey Manuel, when he was shot and killed off Blue Heron Boulevard.
The experience has been a winding trail of challenges. In 13 years since Manuel’s death, Williams says she has lost 16 family members to violence. She has attended 324 funerals, supporting the mothers in their journey to forgiveness and hope.
Williams hopes to eliminate retaliation, talking to children about respect for each other. She has been speaking to them also about how law enforcement officers can be trusted, encouraging them to feel safe in
Young J.J. Williams, who is also Angela’s grandson, says the camaraderie with other children has been helpful.
“They are.. my best friends. They’re just the best,” he said.
Art Show: “Becoming”
Saturday, February 23
5840 Corporate Way Suite #112
West Palm Beach FL. 33407