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Tryna Find Peace of Mind... Explained

Inspired by Tupac's "So Many Tears."

Tupac speaks vulnerably about the struggles of inner-city life for a Black male. Specifically the first few bars, "Back in elementary,

I thrived on misery

Left me alone, 

I grew up amongst a dyin' breed

Inside my mind,

couldn't find a place to rest

Until I got that Thug Life tatted on my chest."

Then, in another part of the song, he says, "Take me away from all the pressure, and all the pain

Show me some happiness again, 

I'm goin' blind

I spend my time in this cell, ain't livin' well

I know my destiny is Hell, where did I fail?

My life is in denial, and when I die

Baptized in eternal fire, 

I'll shed so many tears."

And later he says," Now I'm Lost and I'm weary,

So many tears,

I'm suicidal so don't stand near me

My every move is a calculated step,

to bring me closer to embracing an early death."

In simpler terms, Tupac is saying that since he was a child he felt the burdens of sadness and loneliness, as he had to become accustomed to death early on. Due to this, his mind was in constant turmoil until he felt a sense of belonging when he joined a gang.

In the present day, he is begging to be taken away from the pain he struggles with as a consequence of this lifestyle he chose. As he recognizes the lifestyle he lives is morally incorrect, he wonders where in his life did he go wrong to be on this path. Yet in still he hopes that something cleanses him of his great sins and he can rejoin God when it is his time.

These words reminded me of a section in the book  "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" where the author, Joy DeGruy, wrote about how Black men in these conditions indirectly commit suicide to escape their lives because depression and suicide are socially unacceptable. And when you stand back and examine the optics, gang life is inherently suicidal and traumatizing.

Oftentimes when discussing Black liberation we see gang life as something that is harmful to our livelihood and has ruined our progress-- and I agree. But I also feel that we rarely see the nuance of the issue at hand. We rarely examine this issue as an intentional symptom of our history.

So I made this piece, with the desire to highlight a story untold within the fine arts space. I wanted to provide nuance to a topic that, to my knowledge, has always been Black and White. I wanted to provide a voice for someone that I may know, someone that you may know but may not understand.

 I am not here to glorify a lifestyle that causes harm or frame all Black people as victims of our history, but I am aiming to add perspective. To add compassion and empathy.

When I look at people part of this lifestyle, who grew up in it I see people "trapped inside a ghetto maze," as my mom would say. I see people institutionalized, mentally and physically. 

I would ask myself what the world expected of people without a solid family structure. People who are surrounded by death so much so, that they are desensitized to it. People who are without a loving community? Without money to get by? Without the opportunity to physically escape? Is it that hard to realize that the family and community missing from one's life are then supplemented by belonging to a gang? Why is it that we can examine the psychological effects of the trauma of slavery in every other subject but this one? Why are we so unwilling to love, support, and help those within this environment? What made us abandon collectivism?

With this painting, I wanted to represent a boy who grew up in a warzone. A boy who becomes a part of this war, as he knows nothing else. A boy who wishes to be free but does not know how to free himself, or at least doesn't have the resources to.

So, how does he escape? Does he walk over the corpses and risk getting shot? Does he ignore his own wound? Does he duck? Does he shoot back? Does he pick a side in a never-ending war? Where does he go to reach peace? How does he make it out when he's already in this deep?

Rarely do we comprehend that most people are a product of their environment, and sometimes do not have the strength to persevere. Sometimes, surviving and even assimilating is all the persevering one can do on their own. 

So I have him standing strong, even if he is hurt. He is surviving within an environment designed to kill him, still wanting peace of mind, just as our ancestors did in the past. Just as we do every day.

I have compassion for him because I didn't grow up in that environment, but I know people who did. I talked to people who did, I love people who did. And this lifestyle isn't as simple as a decision.

I just believe that his story matters.

And one day, I hope to help this issue beyond painting a picture.

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