“These are Not My Problems” Social Justice Gallery Show

Our Communications Officer, Edirin Davis, wrote this reflection after visiting a social justice gallery show sponsored by the Niagara Foundation.

“Freedom is indivisible, and when one is enslaved, all are not free.” Declared by President John F. Kennedy during his “Berlin Wall” speech, these words—often quoted and re-appropriated—are as relevant today as they were in 1963. As we look at the world, we can neither deny the presence of widespread injustice nor deny how we, as a people, have failed to respond to it. In order to insulate ourselves from injustice, we are taught to distance ourselves from suffering. To protect ourselves from facing oppression, we have allowed ourselves to be washed of its presence around us. It has been the service of many of our institutions to systematically create this distance for us, reinforcing false divisions, and relieving us of our most basic human responsibilities. As we look at the world today, it seems we have forgotten that we belong to one another.

– 8th Day Center for Justice

8th Day Center for Justice presented the “These Are Not My Problems: A Social Justice Visualization and Journey” at the Lacuna Artists Loft in Chicago. Opening night was May 10th. The Niagara Foundation is proud to be a co-sponsor of the exhibition. I, alongside Brendan Dowd, Director of Interfaith Engagement, attended Industry Night to preview the exhibition.

Each art piece demonstrated a raw portrayal of different social injustices. The exhibition aims to remove the blinders that separate people from the injustices that surround them everyday.  It worked:  I was made me painfully aware of how easy it is to see a social injustice and pretend it either does not exist or make the assumption that someone else will take care of it. I asked Brendan why he wanted Niagara be a part of the project. He said:

“We’re all about connecting people and part of that work involves stimulating conversation around new partnerships.  This could be between organizations, people, or people to organizations.  There are so many social justice oriented non-profit out there doing incredible things and there are even more well intended people looking for a cause to support.  For these organizations, communication plays an incredibly important role in reaching out to the masses. When that communication is poorly designed or, given budgetary constraints, simply absent, the organization’s great work often goes unnoticed.”

This is what really attracted me to the project.  “These are Not My Problems” not only attempts to raise awareness to social inequalities and realities of the marginalized in our society through the arts.  What’s unique is that it attempts to build lasting partnerships between organizations and top artists in Chicago and invites them to collaboratively design new platforms for inviting the larger public to think critically on the unjust realities that so many in our community face.  You may not necessarily agree with the opinions of some of these organizations but you will see their work from a new perspective.”

One of the bigger exhibits was presented by another sponsor, Honeymaid. Honeymaid created a commercial about what makes a family and received many negative comments. This gave them the idea to create an art exhibit. The exhibit which was compiled of rolled up papers that spelled out “Love”,  turned negative comments into positive art. To engage the exhibitions visitors, people were asked to write down a social injustice they believed was their problem, roll it up, and add it to the “Love” exhibit. As rolls of paper was added to the piece, it was evident that positivity and community makes “Love” grow.

View the Honeymaid commercial here:


A Social Justice Gallery Show
Location: Lacuna Artists Lofts, Blank Canvas Gallery
2150 S CanalPort, Chicago IL / Opening night May 10th, 12-7pm – May 30th
Curated by Jeremy VanCleef

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.