What Binds us Together is Greater than what Drives us Apart

LigoranoReese, Truth be Told, National Mall Washington DC, 2018

The Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogues begins Wednesday, March 4, 6-7:30pm at the American University Museum in Washington DC, & online via the Third Space Network. Panelists are Roberto Bedoya, LigoranoReese & Renee Stout, moderated by Randall Packer.


“What binds us together is greater than what drives us apart.” – Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

Despite the warning signs that 2020 was going to be a fractious year with diametrically opposed partisan forces at each other’s throats, who could have predicted the sheer apocalyptic nature of this tumultuous year? Who could have predicted that just two months in, we would be facing continental-sized bushfires in Australia; the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani nearly triggering World War III; the contentious passage of Brexit; the impeachment acquittal of a President assuredly guilty of annihilating the constitution; and the Coronavirus bringing the global economy to its knees and threatening the very survival of the human species. What a year!

I find myself taking stock of where we are and how our collective voices might present some small ray of raw hope. While the topic of the first Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogue next Wednesday is Democracy vs Authoritarianism, the threat to democratic freedom has far exceeded the “mere” steady erosion of democracy. For how can the systems of government resolve the immediate threat of foreign conflicts, climate change, and viral pandemics (let alone the ongoing crises of immigration, economic justice, racial prejudice, and religious freedom) if democracy has been hijacked through the intentional manipulation of the levers of power? When democratic core principles of truth and the common good are no longer informing government action, the voice of the people is strangled and chaos prevails.

I have always felt that the artistic voice is crucial to illuminating social and political conditions, providing an alternative lens that refocuses our view & understanding of the underlying root problems. This perspective goes beyond striking out against partisan ills, but rather, is concerned with envisioning & building new models that make the old ones obsolete (to paraphrase the visionary architect Buckminister Fuller). Artists invent their own worlds of the imagination that strike deep emotional chords, bringing catharsis to our perception of conditions in ways that are far outside the binary political rhetoric of partisan conflict.

On our panel we have DC artist Renée Stout, who has constructed a mythological cosmology surrounding her fictitious double and herbalist Fatima Mayfield, conjuring up the magic & power of African American Hoodoo culture as pushback against fear of the black woman who dares exercise her power. We have also invited the collaborative art duo LigoranoReese (Nora Ligorano & Marshall Reese), who have created a series of “Temporary Monuments,” melting ice sculptures of iconic texts, which bring the viewer into a visceral relationship with the fragility & loss of the ideals of truth & democracy. And to broaden our discussion, I have included Roberto Bedoya, Cultural Affairs Manager of the City of Oakland, who will discuss from his perspective the politics of cultural displacement and the crisis of belonging in failing social and political systems.

Through our interdisciplinary panel discussion, including the grassroots DC media and political organizations that are participating in our Art & Activism Information Hub, we are seeking solutions that require a multiplicity of voices, who go beyond polarizing partisan dialogue, but in fact, are working to find solutions on the front lines of social and political change. By initiating this exchange, together with our local and remote audiences in the third space, we ask: how can we transcend the arbitrary boundaries between the arts, media & government to illuminate the complex social, cultural, technological, and political issues we face today? This may sound unrealistic, even utopic, or perhaps hopelessly aspirational in today’s fractious political environment, but to repeat Obama’s words from his book the Audacity of Hope: “What binds us together is greater than what drives us apart.”


The Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogues begins Wednesday, March 4, 6-7:30pm at the American University Museum in Washington DC, & online via the Third Space Network. Panelists are Roberto Bedoya, LigoranoReese & Renee Stout, moderated by Randall Packer.