A few weeks ago, I attended the presentation of poems and music by the organization Sing Our Rivers Red to raise awareness of missing and murdered Native American women across the continent. Every performance was incredibly powerful and meaningful, and I really showed how space can be made to talk about what is painful, what is forgotten, and what feels otherwise invisible through art– the presentation also set up an exhibit of earrings to represented the missing women. (I’d really recommend everyone looking up this organization and learning more about their message, by the way).
While watching Levees, I was reminded of Sing Our Rivers Red in that Lee uses his documentary, as an art form, to raise awareness of what is otherwise forgotten and covered up– the suffering of those neglected by the state. Obviously the contexts and
content are completely different, but I got the same powerful feeling watching Levees as I did the performances of Sing Our Rivers Red; representing these “forgotten” experiences and pain through image, object, and art in both instances was much more powerful than just presenting statistics.
With this understanding, however, I am left wondering why the information presented in both SORR and Levees felt so shocking and groundbreaking for me– what makes it so that these stories and statistics are forgotten or covered up? The answer to that question feels obvious in light of the historical/political context of the respective situations, but I also feel a lot of guilt that the rest of the country is able to exist unaware of this pain, and to some extent complicit in creating it.
(Image from SORR Facebook page.)