Located at Washington and Lee University, Wilson Hall Atrium (February – March 2018)
My Beloved Community is an art project created by Washington and Lee students, Ellen Kanzinger and Arlette Hernandez as a response to the displays of white supremacy that took place in Charlottesville, VA during August of 2017.
The term of the “Beloved Community” was first coined by Josiah Royce, an ethicist from the early 20th century. For him, the Beloved Community was an ideal, but one whose strivings led mankind to salvation.
While Royce introduced the term, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. popularized it and expanded the inclusivity at the core of its definition. Delivering a speech at the Conference on Christian Faith and Human Relation held in Nashville in 1957, King fashioned a definition whose legacy continues to this day:
“THE END IS RECONCILIATION; THE END IS REDEMPTION; THE END IS THE CREATION OF THE BELOVED COMMUNITY. IT IS THIS TYPE OF SPIRIT AND THIS TYPE OF LOVE THAT CAN TRANSFORM OPPONENTS INTO FRIENDS.… IT IS THIS LOVE WHICH WILL BRING ABOUT MIRACLES IN THE HEARTS OF MEN.”
King’s Beloved Community is one of love, respect, and acceptance. It is a community where everyone could feel a sense of belonging, and as bell hooks argued in Killing Rage: Ending Racism, the Beloved Community is a space where our differences are celebrated.
Inspired by this rich history of human rights, My Beloved Community seeks to establish a vision of inclusive community. Through portraiture, the project gives visibility to people who have been pushed into the margins.
While the project is largely visual, it is also narrative. Attached to each portrait is a personal statement in which every individual shares their vulnerabilities, hopes, knowledge, and struggles. Through their creative statements, our community members push back against the rhetoric of misrepresentation, reclaiming the stories and assumptions that coat their bodies.
It is our hope that through this visual activism, empathy can blossom between people while initiating meaningful conversations about social justice, community, and difference.