Hi! My name is Amber Johnson and I am a communication and social justice scholar, artist and activist. My work focuses on the “social” aspects of social justice, or the “things” we do with others in dialogue, performance, and community to create a better society.
The Justice Fleet is my most ambitious project to date. I am building four mobile museums that will go into different neighborhoods to engage with community members about Radical Forgiveness, Radical Imagination, Transfuturism, and Black Girl Magic.
So how did this idea come into being?
It started with The Forgiveness Quilt. I noticed that when I introduced my students to systemic oppression and social injustice, they became paralyzed with guilt and the desire to make a difference, but not knowing where to start. I couldn’t allow them to rest in that posture, so I created an activity to teach them how to re-process their feelings through radical forgiveness. I chose forgiveness with intention. I remembered being an undergraduate and learning about social injustice and identity management. It was in the classroom that I first wrestled with what it means to forgive myself and others. It only seemed appropriate to begin where my journey as a professor started.
The Forgiveness Quilt activity served as a point of departure from guilt into activism for myself and many of the students. After having done the Forgiveness Quilt activity for several years, I thought to myself, this is powerfully healing. How can I take this off campus and into communities?
The simple answer, make it mobile!
Practice Radical Inclusion!
My university gifted me a truck, I applied for and received several grants, and production on the Radical Forgiveness mobile museum began.
Even though the Radical Forgiveness truck was in production, I couldn’t stop fantasizing about possibility! I began dreaming of developing other museums based off my research and teaching. I asked myself, what else does the world need? How are we going to fix our societies? I started thinking about imagination and what it means to create the world we want to live in. I started thinking about my own childhood and what it means to grow up as a young black girl in the United States. I started thinking about gender identity and how we must begin learning how to see transgender and gender nonconforming people with more complexity so they too may experience love, safety, and the ability to thrive.
The vision was alive, and The Justice Fleet idea was born!
The Justice Fleet is a group of themed social justice mobile museums housed inside of box trucks that will go into different communities to bring people together for community engagement, community healing, and community education through art activism, dialogue, and play. Each mobile museum has its own theme and community arts project.
The Radical Forgiveness Truck focuses on using forgiveness to heal. Community members will learn about the process of radical forgiveness and then participate in the creation of a Forgiveness Quilt. While painting on canvases and witnessing other people’s process of forgiveness on their own canvases, we will engage in dialogue about what it means to let go of resentment and bias and see each other in more complex ways. The forgiveness quilts will become a part of the trucks display and encourage more dialogue around the truck’s theme.
The Radical Imagination truck is a maker space that focuses on using our imagination to think critically about the societies we live in and how to make them more just. Participants will be asked to imagine a utopian world where liberation and freedom from oppression are possible. Then, working in small groups, they will be asked to build that world using found and reclaimed items. As a large group, we will talk about their worlds, the societal structures they built, how those structure challenge or perpetuate social problems, and ways we can begin changing our world current world to be more just. The utopian cities and conversations will be documented and photographed and become a part of the truck’s display to encourage more dialogue, questions, and imagination.
The third truck, Black Girl Magic, stems from my own experiences growing up in spaces that didn’t validate my existence and instead made me feel self-conscious about my skin, hair, body, and demeanor. This truck will take toys, art supplies, games, videos, and amazing Black femme volunteers into communities to inspire Black girls to love their bodies, their hair, their smiles, their loud voices, their healing, their growth, and their labor as they learn to see themselves beautifully different. We will engage in dialogue about what it means to be a beautiful and brilliant black girl in this country while celebrating who we are in play.
The final truck is the Transfuturism Truck. Transfuturism is a visual research project that asks people to think about gender binaries, gender justice, and what it means to transcend gender oppression. Participants will learn about the differences between gender identity, gender expression, gender attraction, and sexuality through an interactive exhibit and dialogue around issues affecting transgender and gender non-conforming people. The goals of this project are to humanize trans and gender non-conforming bodies through art activism and dialogue, and inspire healing in communities that are transphobic and exclusive.
So how can your donation help? The first truck, The Radical Forgiveness Truck is already in production and will be completed by February due to generous grants from The Regional Arts Commission, Enterprise Community Partners, and Saint Louis University. In order to realize the full project, I need funds to purchase three more vehicles, allocate resources to build out the museum exhibit spaces, purchase the equipment for each project, pay for travel expenses incurred driving the trucks to different locations, and staff each mobile museum.
For more information about each truck, the project goals, learning outcomes, or my story, please feel free to visit our website, www.thejusticefleet.com
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