Forging the Art of Resistance

Story by Ricardo Reyna. Originally published by The kNOw Youth Media.

Graphic by Ricardo A. Reyna.

When a blade for war is forged, it is heated, hammered and beaten into shape until it is finally sharp enough to be used as a weapon for battle.

In life, everybody must battle with oppressive forces and personal everyday wars of their own. It may leave them feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, alone and fearful at times — as if it was them against the world. So how can they exert resistance in times of trouble and hardship?

First we must ask, what is resistance?

Resistance could be defined in two ways.

  1. the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.
  2. the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely.

Many people, including myself, defeat these adversities by using art and expression as our weapon. Just like when creating a sword, our minds have been heated, hammered, and beaten into shape by the world, our thoughts become forged into art to be used as a weapon against our problems. It’s a way to vent about things that may be too hard to speak about. Whether it’s painting a picture, carving a sculpture or writing poems and songs, artists use their skills to show what is on their mind and counteract their problems in a positive way. They bring out what others might not be able to see or think about on their own.

I’ve been a part of many community projects that show how young people can artistically “battle” with the things that need to be fought against. When I was 15 years old, for instance, I was part of helping to paint the “Louie Kee Market Mural” over on the west side of town, a project orchestrated by The kNOw and the Fresno BHC.

It was our way of showing that we wanted to make Fresno a better place, even if it was in the form of a 150 foot painting — a painting of things we loved and the places we came from.

We worked every weekend for hours on end, satisfied with the idea that we were giving back to our community, and leaving behind something to be proud of. To this day I feel a great deal of pride in knowing I was a part of something bigger than myself.

Then, just last September, I was also blessed to be a part of a very successful event named Kick Knowledge L.O.U.D (Living Our Unchained Dreams). L.O.U.D allowed local artists and performers to show their talent and hard work by setting up several art galleries and stages that allowed people, like myself, the outlet to visually and verbally express how they feel about the things that are impacting themselves and the lives of those around us.

As an artist and performer who openly speaks about all the things going on in my life, I took from this event a very valuable lesson I hadn’t learned until that day: That although it is very therapeutic for someone to voice out what is on their mind, being heard and giving them the opportunity to show what’s inside of them is far more important.

What good is a cry for help if nobody is around to hear it?

Fresno’s monthly Art Hops have done a great job of doing just that: creating an environment that allows artists to be heard by crowds of people who appreciate what they have to say. It’s such a great sight to see everyone milling about, admiring the work of local artists and having wonderful conversations. It gives me a feeling of hope to know that many of my friends are attending them as well and learning to appreciate other people’s minds, talents and views on what they feel is important to them.

I get to hear many of the stories behind some of the art and music and it always amazes me to hear about what inspires people to do what they do. Seeing the passion in someone’s eyes when they speak about what they’ve created and why they love it energizes my ambition and inspires me to want to inspire others.

Although I paint pictures and play instruments myself, writing is where I truly find my solace and strength in moments of weakness. It could be through poetry, music or even stories about characters I create in my head. Writing is my preferred way to overcome most of the negative thoughts that crowd my mind.

Sometimes, these trains of thought may take me to a dark place, but learning to manage them and using them to create, instead of letting them consume me, is a task I’m becoming rather good at. There is a certain joy and comfort I get from hearing the tip of a pencil scratching and scribbling on the surface of a composition notebook. It brings me peace in times when I need it most.

Whatever any of you may be going through in life, it is always good to find some way to fight against it, without hurting yourself or anyone around you. Find something you are passionate about that also allows you to create something positive from the negativity you may be going through. Learn a new craft that takes your mind off of whatever has you feeling trapped and never be ashamed to express how you feel.

A very intelligent young woman and great friend of mine once said something to me that I’ve carried around ever since, and if there is anything valuable to be learned from this article, let it be those very same words:

“Remember that your emotions make sense and it’s okay for you to acknowledge them.”

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