Exhortations on the Ground: A Visual Essay by Maggie Libby - Center for the Arts and Humanities

Exhortations on the Ground: A Visual Essay by Maggie Libby

I would like to acknowledge that we are on native land. This statement was written on unceded Wabanaki territory on land taken from the Abenaki of western Maine and New Hampshire, and the Wabanaki tribes of Maine and the Maritimes, the people of Dawnland, that is, the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy tribes, who have suffered and continue to suffer from violence, pestilence, diaspora, trauma.

What are my personal biases? How can I see and act on the structural inequities? Morning pages, three longhand pages with coffee, first thing. How do I feel? How is it with me? Be outdoors, in the mountains, woods, the garden with my hands in the earth, or at the sea, or sliding paint across a surface. But the bad news grows, GROWS, GROWS. Sit, breathe.

Words are such slippery things. Used to hurt, help, deceive, manipulate, anger, calm, cause hope or despair; bind us, puzzle us, bring us to tears. Careful what you say. I prefer the dumbness and shouts of color, then doubt creeps in, erase it, question it, question everything. Question the beliefs, ideas, teachings, all our systems, laws, schools, governments, banks, follow the money. You are different. You can’t have a house loan. Your property is not worth it. You can’t vote. You were in prison. You have mental illness. You are unstable. You don’t conform. What do they want us to believe? Careful what you say. Don’t make Dad angry. It’s all your fault.

Police kill Black folks violently, Congress lets people starve, the former president believes his ego is more important than hundreds of thousands of lives, we lock children and people of color into cages, judge, attack, destroy. Everything.

Where are we? ON the ground. Breathe. Sit. Stay safe. It’s already here. Ground. The land. Give it back. How? At least acknowledge we are here as visitors, settlers who took the land from the tribes, learn more, be respectful. Breathe.

What’s your bias? How were you formed, taught, trained? What traumas are there, falsehoods, what gigantic patriarchal systems of power and inequity have you bought into? Do you give in, lash out, think, work on it, learn, listen, support Black Lives Matter and VOTE?

Maggie Libby

Curator of Digital Discovery and Engagement

Special Collections & Archives

Colby College