A gift of love, art, healing in Southern Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill.- A Gift of Love Charity is a Black-run, Black-founded charity in Southern Illinois that specializes in arts and education programming, such as African dance and African hand drumming. It has partnered with a visual arts organization on a timely program. With their Healing Illinois grant, A Gift of Love has developed the Art Reconciliation Project, a composite of documentary film and murals.

The documentary, targeted for release in April 2021, will feature people recounting their experiences of being targets or perpetrators of racism in Southern Illinois.

The documentary brings local people of diverse backgrounds together to create art and use it as a healing medium. They also talk in a safe space, bravely sharing their stories on camera. The broad topics guiding people's stories are mass incarceration, education, and racism within families.

"We want to bring the situation [of racism] to the forefront," said assistant director Chastity Mays. "I think that part of the problem is these things aren't talked about as much as they should. In order for us to make the change, racism needs to be talked about."

Mays' long-term plan for the film is to use it as a tool to engage local leaders, including employers and school board members, in issues that may be uncovered by it.

A Gift of Love is collaborating on the Art Reconciliation Project with Project Human X, a mission-driven art gallery and workshop located at 715 N. University Ave.

Gallery co-founder Cree Sahidah Glanz agreed with Mays' assessment that racism isn't discussed enough. She said that is problematic.

"This is a sensitive topic, but it's a step toward healing. If we don't talk about how race affects us, then it seems to the perpetrators that 'everything is just peachy. Everything is fine. No one is complaining'," said Glanz.

Filming for the documentary occurred on Saturdays in February. After recording their interviews, documentary participants went into the gallery to add color to the indoor mural-a human face with the full spectrum of skin tones. Finally, participants contributed strokes of color to the outdoor mural.

The outdoor mural is being styled after "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," the famous painting by impressionist artist George Seurat. The painting depicts people of various ages on a lawn, enjoying a sunny day in pre-pandemic times-pre-1918-pandemic times.

The mural's take will show people of various ethnicities, Glanz said, and the mural location itself is a nod to the name of the original painting. The Island, the business development where Project Human X is located, is so named because Route-51 and University Avenue isolate it, running southward past the east and west sides. Commuters driving southward toward Sothern Illinois University and other places in the area will see the mural in its prominence.

A Gift of Love Charity's permanent mural will be unveiled Saturday, March 13, 2021, at Project Human X. The documentary premiere will be presented?on Saturday April 10, 2021 at 2 p.m. by the Southern Illinois University Student Center, 1255 Lincoln Drive. A Zoom premiere will be presented by the Carbondale Public Library on Saturday April 17, 2021 at 4 p.m.

COVID-19 standards will be implemented for the in-person showing of the documentary.

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