The People's State of the Union

In February of 2021, MICA conducted a People's State of the Union Story Circle. We gathered on Zoom to share stories about how our lives have been shaped by the movements of people across lands and borders. Local artist Tracy Cook-Williams joined us to do live painting inspired by the stories the circle. Excerpts from some of the stories and a photo of the final painting are shared below.

Similar circles were carried out by groups across the country, and the stories were gathered by the US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), who coordinates  this national action. On April 22, USDAC will be presenting their "Poetic Address to the Nation" — a grassroots reflection on the state of our union based on the gathered stories — It is a people's response to the top-down speech given by the president. CLICK HERE to register for this powerful online event.

For my mom's side, my heritage is Mormon pioneer heritage...they came down with Brigham Young to Salt Lake. This was Zion to them. While they moved here, they were also pushing people out, and this was Goshute land. These people were pushed out of their native lands to make room for Zion. That part of my lineage and heritage, I have to always reconcile.


Is there room for diversity in higher education? Is there room for diversity in the US government? To make that room, people will really have to reflect differently than they have in the past...January 6th opened our eyes quite a bit, and if it didn't, don't underestimate what's going on in this country right now. Because there are revolutions going on underneath what we see on the surface.

Painting with imagery of the statue of liberty, barbed wire, and people migrating
Artist Tracy Cook-Williams created this painting live during the story circle, inspired by the stories that were shared

Denise and Richard were the first Black family to move into an all-white subdivision in Elk Grove Village Illinois, named after astronauts...We were playing kick the can. Old Man Kiney...came out started yelling that he didn't want any N-word kids to play in the cul de sac. And my dad came out...he yelled, “Oh for Christ's sake, Kiney, it's 1970 and you’re living in the astronaut division and this kind of prejudice isn't going to be tolerated here."


My dad never talked to us about racism. I was born in Tonga, and you don't talk about things, you just go ahead and live them. But...My dad made sure we were raised on Black soul music...he'd be kind of sad five or six days of the week, but on Saturday he would put on the Pointer Sisters or just some soul music. He's gone now, but that little part of him was joy, and I give that to our Black relatives...Art is going to save you. Art is going to heal you. Art is going to get us through this.


It wasn't until this this last Sunday that my mom started talking about her journey, what she experienced crossing the border twice... she moved here for us, running away from a domestic violence situation in Mexico. Just hearing her speak was amazing. It was a really powerful moment for me...her sharing her story.


I saw the unfair treatment that our communities were facing, and the discrimination. And, so, I joined an immigrant rights movement. And I've been working in that for the past 10 years, making sure that we know our rights and we know what we can do...that’s the beauty of migration, that it makes you connect with other people and with other cultures.


Going back for the first time at 10 years old and meeting everyone, I felt this immediate sense of like being less lonely in the world, figuring out like, “Oh, this is a place that I have roots in, and this is a place that I also call home.”