Recently, a collision of circumstance reminded me of the importance of the arts to the work of justice.
Over the last two weeks I attended a screening of She Has A Name in Winnipeg and joined a talk back panel featuring, among others, a former Canadian MP whose anti-trafficking work changed the criminal code and a lawyer nominated for a Nobel Peace prize for his advocacy work.
The film was screened during Winnipeg's annual Peace Days to launch World Vision Canada's Power of Her initiative, a campaign to raise awareness about gender-based injustice.
It was an honour to sit on this panel with history makers--men and women making an immeasurable difference in the world and in the national and international fight against human trafficking.
Something that amazed me was the way in which each panelist spoke about the film: its importance, its unique ability to highlight an issue like trafficking, and the way it opens up the door to conversation.
The other factor. Last week I submitted a chapter to a forthcoming textbook about human trafficking which features the work of scholars in various fields. It's my understanding that my chapter, entitled Aesthetic Whistleblowers, and which features artists from the past who used their craft to address slavery, is the only chapter featuring an Arts and Humanities approach to the issue.
One of the artists I feature is Hannah More who wrote a poem at a key moment in the original abolition movement's history. The other is Alexandr Solzhenitsyn who alerted the world to the brutality of Stalin's forced labour camps.
Their work and the work of others is so critical to examine to understand the inheritance we as artists have to the creative legacy of the abolition movement.
Creative expression invites people from all walks of life to exchange ideas and sit at the same table. For issues like trafficking where vast resources, comprehensive strategy, and the will and work of so many good people are required to eradicate it, the arts can uniquely connect people and compel them to conversation, debate and to action.
After two unique experiences in which my art world collided with the world of justice, I'm compelled to encourage people around me, like you reading this post here on my blog: If God has put something on your heart to do, however big or small it seems, however important, ridiculous or impossible the task is, be encouraged!
God does way more than we could ever actually imagine with the little we bring.
Pick up your pen, your brush, your instrument, your dream. What you have in your hand matters. What matters more is that you use it to help others.
Like these incredible people did and do.