Jewfro: The Day After

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By Ben Falik
By Ben Falik

Election Day hurt. And as Secretary Clinton said, it will be painful for a long time. So I sought out art — not to escape the pain, but for coping and for context.

Detroit Institute of Arts (outside). The millage that lived! Why we can support a Picassoriffic museum (and a penguintastic zoo) with our tax dollars and can’t get behind buses to get people there is a mystery to me. If, even in a national election, all politics are local, the failure of the RTA shows we still lack some combination of trust in our public institutions and compassion for our neighbors to invest in something bigger than ourselves.

Perhaps the trains running up and down Woodward will help people to believe it when they see it and then see it when they believe it; I’m not sure.

Detroit Institute of Arts (inside). A powerful woman soars directly inside the Woodward entrance. Thalassa by New York street artist Caledonia Curry is 20 feet tall and weighs 400 pounds. As if there to both comfort and condemn, this literal woman of color drapes the whole space in diverse, flowing materials while looking off to a distant horizon — past the patriarchy, perhaps. Make sure to visit before she leaves us on March 19, 2017, lest you end up on her bad side.

Thalassa by New York street artist Caledonia Curry
Thalassa by New York street artist Caledonia Curry

In the Kresge Court, I stumbled upon the staff of the Downtown Synagogue (a group of powerful women known to soar) struggling. Rabbi Ariana Silverman suggested that when we experience a loss, Judaism doesn’t just allow us to mourn; it expects that we will and that we will take our time and do it together.

Oh, the gravitational pull of the Rivera Court. Diego seems to welcome me back and tell me something different every time I’m there. Yesterday, he told me that we are defined by our contradictions — labor and capital, diversity and white privilege, physical and spiritual, solidarity and inclusion, particularism and pluralism, individual, local, social, global, universal, human — and how radically reconcilable they are.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Dr. King’s words live colorfully on the walls of the museum and the faces of elementary school students walking past.

To boot, the Detroit After Dark photo exhibit reminded me of the work it takes to see light and love in a city where others see blight and fear.

Sing for Your Life. By the time you read this, I will have escorted author Daniel Bergner to and from the Jewish Book Fair, and it will have been lovely. Meanwhile, I’m reading and recommending his book. Like so many works at the DIA (and perhaps the electoral map), Sing for Your Life tells the story of power derived from pain. Beyond the conceit — Ryan Speedo Green’s journey from juvenile detention to singing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera — are all the daily details and decisions that bridge and blur the ordinary and extraordinary.

2.5 Minute Ride. Every day, I look across the street from Repair the World at the Matrix Theatre and — as someone who once wanted to go into theater and settled for being theatrical — have come to take for granted that we have a professional performance space that is steeped in social justice right under our nose.

2.5 Minute Ride is a one-woman show from Tony Award-winner and Lansing native Lisa Kron. If a tragic flaw of this election was our failure to understand the fears and frustrations of those around us, 2.5 Minute Ride offers a vivid, vulnerable look at the compounded experiences of a recurring large family trip to Cedar Point and a belated small family trip to Auschwitz. Go see it before Dec. 4. Tickets and showtimes at matrixtheatre.org.

From today’s pain, tomorrow’s power.

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