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Courageous Art

Strong solo voices filled Edwards Hall as guests arrived for our Inspiring Courage: Stories of Passion and Compassion speaker event on March 3rd. The voices and lullabies being sung sounded familiar. They touched my heart with memories of my own childhood and they led me to ask what the stories were behind these recorded lullabies. They were the focal point of Rashin Fahandej’s project “A Father’s Lullaby.”

We were grateful to spend time with Rashin as she described her passion for social justice. Her passion began with her personal experience as a persecuted minority in Iran. During her childhood, the Iranian Revolution led to a government that wanted to silence the voices of the Baha’i faith. In some cases, this included not allowing people who declared themselves as Baha’i to attend any educational institutions. Rashin shared the importance of education in her faith with a quote from Baha’u’llah, the spiritual leader who founded the Baha’i faith: “Regard Man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.” Rashin told us about her personal fear as a child that she would grow up uneducated. Can you imagine telling your five-year-old daughter that she is not allowed to go to school? Her experience and the tenets of her faith informed her creative process, passion for social justice and the belief that it is society's responsibility to ensure all children are provided with a nurturing home, access to the best quality education and all of the opportunities in life that they deserve

Through her work with children in Boston, Rashin became aware of the staggering statistics regarding incarceration in the United States. Our country has the highest rates of incarceration in the world and African American men are disproportionately incarcerated. She saw the impact of our current criminal justice system’s policies on families and communities. Statistics show that 1 in 10 black children have a parent behind bars, compared with about 1 in 60 white children. The absence of fathers and the destruction of economic, social, and personal stability is an injustice caused by a complex system in our country. It will take many different people within that system and pressure from outside of the system to cause change.

“A Father’s Lullaby” provides an opportunity for all members of our community to bring voices to this issue by participating in singing a lullaby or sharing memories of their childhood. The art installations also provide an audience to bear witness to memories shared by men who have been incarcerated and absent from their children's lives. Her hope is to nurture the organic growth of this project to many cities and to many people listening to the lullabies on her website and adding their own lullabies. This unique form of art can provide many different people with the opportunity to share their stories, step closer to other people’s stories, and build a network of people who can collaborate on solutions to the systemic injustices of our criminal justice system.

We are happy to be working with her to try to put this concept into action in Framingham. If you would like to join us in that effort please contact us as Open Spirit. We are looking for individuals in Framingham who would be interested in doing some of the following things:

  • Spread the word about “A Father’s Lullaby” to individuals and organizations who may want to assist in growing an art ecosystem regarding justice in Framingham.

  • Organize lullaby recordings through the networks and organizations you know.

  • Volunteer to help with tasks and needs for an art installation in Framingham in 2019

  • Participate in an Advisory Committee that could help to plant the seed of this organic movement in Framingham. The ecosystem needs many great minds and creative hearts working together.

Rashin’s story reminded me that it is easy in our world for the powerful to dehumanize a group of people for their own purposes. An individual’s access to good health, education, and economic opportunities are impacted by large institutions, embedded bias, and conflicting needs of diverse groups. All we see is an injustice, an injustice we want to make right. However, we can be overwhelmed and feel powerless when we try to act.

Rashin sees the opportunity to use art to help people to step closer to each other and build a collaboration that can keep the art moving forward and changing more hearts, “My practice builds upon what I call ‘Art as Ecosystem,’ a network of collaborations with a multiplicity of narratives that investigate social systems and occupy public sites as a critical discourse.” Rashin’s approach to social justice is simple and organic, an art movement for justice that can move from heart to heart and grow within the complex systems to bring about positive change.

Credit of “The First Modern Organizational Chart Is a Thing of Beauty” picture

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