Violence runs rampant in these austere times. An embodiment of the concept would certainly manifest as the Hydra itself, the multi-headed serpent monster from ancient Greek mythology, a monster which Hercules himself had difficulty slaying.
Mimicking the Hydra, violence is manifold and ruthless. In today’s world, where there is mass profit from maintaining perpetual tragedies such as war, obtaining any leverage over this beast is an absolutely Herculean task.
Despite the seemingly infinite difficulties that one who chooses to walk nonviolent a path has before them, many, such as Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King and Bell Hooks, have boldly endured innumerable gauntlets and tirelessly worked against powers terrifyingly dedicated to the preservation of global suffering, powers operating in the name of ephemeral trinkets such as money and status.
These people, some of whom can be named by grade-school children, others whose names have faded into the aether, laid the groundwork for future generations to blaze formerly unforeseen trails to a world transformed.
I consider myself one of these freshly hatched trailblazers; I’ve spent the last four of my nineteen years of life coming to political consciousness and obtaining skills that have allowed me to work against violence in its various manifestations in my life, and the world more broadly.
In the past four years, I’ve been apart of various projects dedicated to the eradication of violence and the implementation of justice. From pushing the public school system in my home city, Washington, D.C, to adopt restorative justice in various DC public schools utilizing photography and personal stories, to co-creating a theatre piece about real-life experiences with systems of oppression – and many other experiences and opportunities – these past four years have been integral to the formulation of who I am currently.
And who I am currently is still in a process of growth and discovery despite the spectacular aforementioned experiences I’ve had. Who I am currently yearns to learn, do, and grow indefinitely. Which is exactly why I came to the Gandhi Institute in September to work as a Program Intern.
I came to the Gandhi Institute to further my understanding of what nonviolence is and what it looks like in practice. I also came to incorporate my pre-existing knowledge and skill base into the Institute as well; to further utilize and cultivate everything these past four years have taught me.
I was particularly excited to fold my experiences at the intersection of art and social justice into my work at the Institute, an intersection that I will forever be captivated by.
In my experience, art has been that place where my imagination is pushed to operate beyond its limits. In my various artistic practices, writing and photography predominantly, striving for authenticity and excellence act as impetus for my imagination to traverse into formerly unexplored regions of my interior landscape. And the outcomes of developing an expanded consciousness at this point in my life has been my salvation time and again.
Art, as a method of expanding my imagination, has allowed me to cultivate a self capable of withstanding the policing and narrow-minded stereotyping projected onto my Black male body. My current self is grounded in the resiliency which accompanies unapologetic self-definition.
And this ability to define one’s self on one’s own terms is something I wish to offer to every being inhabiting the planet, especially the most marginalized and downtrodden amongst us.
Not only has my imagination given me the ability to define myself, it has given me the ability to envision the world beyond its current state of affairs. Despite war, poverty, white supremacy, misogyny, and the other forms of violence running amok in the world today, thanks to my imagination, as well as being in various communities with wonderfully loving people, these dark times do not inhibit my ability to picture the world as radically different; just, equitable, attentive, and caring for everyone.
And the world will never transform if we continue to allow our imaginations to stagnate. That which is created must first be imagined. Of course, I don’t wish to come across as sentimental or romantic. None of this is as simple or easy as the words written above may imply. I am both aware, and largely ignorant, of how complex and dreary our world is.
In my opinion, art and imagination are one method in a sea of millions for the construction of a nonviolent world. Yet, these are the methods that I’ve found most meaningful and the methods I am vouching for now and will continue to do so time and time again.
Malik Thompson, a nineteen year-old cis Black queer-romantic grey ace hails from DC, where he recently finished his senior year of high school and is overjoyed to join the Gandhi House and larger Rochester community. His work in DC involved using theatre to raise awareness around various social justice issues, by using photography as a storytelling medium to get policy for restorative justice programs implemented in DC public schools, and using videography as a tool to give those most misrepresented in mainstream media the ability to tell their stories themselves. Malik enjoys reading, writing, taking photographs, finding holistic ways to tend to his body, and solitude.