Boston Strong? Artist Statement: Jason Pramas
This site was down yesterday with a technical issue; so I couldn't post this editorial on our normal editorial day. But the site is obviously back up now (phew!). Here for your consideration then is my artist statement from the Boston Strong? art exhibition. It's been a great week. We've gotten a ton of publicity and had a great turnout for our openings. I'll have photos up from the show within a couple of days on the Question Boston Strong website. But I'd like folks to read the statement while the Boston Strong hype maelstrom is engulfing our city with full force in advance of the running of this year's Boston Marathon on Monday. And I encourage people to drop by our last viewing period for the Boston Strong? show tomorrow (Sunday, April 20) from 3-7 p.m. at Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston St., 2nd Flr. in Copley Square. One note ... if you're connected to a community, religious or civic organization that would like to host our show and a public discussion anywhere in or around Boston, please contact me directly at info openmediaboston org. We're planning to take Boston Strong? on the road, and we're especially interested to install the show in Boston's suburbs. Thanks in advance for any proposals on that front. Read on:
The slogan “Boston Strong” was meant as an expression of solidarity when it was popularized by two Emerson College students for a city and region reeling from the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. It has since become strongly connected to fundraising efforts for the One Fund that have raised more than $70 million for the bombing victims since its inception on April 16, 2013.
However by focusing on that one terrible tragedy the Boston Strong slogan has become something else - a way of avoiding discussion of a number of unpleasant facts about the City of Boston.
Foremost among them is the fact that every year for the last many years, dozens of people are killed in street violence. Most of those victims are young people of color that live in working class neighborhoods of color like Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan.
The year that has now passed since last April 15th was no different than the years that came before it. 50 people were killed in street violence in Boston between last April 15th and this April 15th. But there was no outpouring of public sympathy for them, no One Fund, little decent media coverage, and little support for their families after their deaths. Nor was their any significant public support for the victims of such violence prior to April 15, 2013 either.
My work Boston Strong? then is designed to encourage viewers to think about the way the Boston Strong slogan covers up this reality. And to point to the importance of breaking through the veil that it constructs between the real Boston and the fantasy Boston that's pushed in major regional media and in the corporate advertising that largely supports that media.
Furthermore, it is meant to provide the viewers some facts about the five major corporations (Liberty Mutual Group, Bain Capital, AT&T, John Hancock/Manulife and New Balance) and one large non-profit (Partners Healthcare) that each gave $1 million to the One Fund. And to connect the business practices of those corporations to the institutional poverty and structural racism that leads to the crime that results in the continuing death count in Boston's working class neighborhoods of color.
Finally, the work offers a brief look at the grassroots movements for social justice that emerges both out of neighborhoods affected by street violence and out of other better off (and largely white) neighborhoods in and around Boston - all of which suffer at the hands of the giant corporations and banks that are increasingly distorting our democracy, and that threaten to ruin future prospects for the vast majority of people in this nation and on this planet.
Raising the possibility of collectively building a more just and democratic Boston that will truly be worthy of the slogan Boston Strong.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston - and an artist with an MFA from the Lesley University College of Art and Design. He is curator of the Boston Strong? art exhibition, and one of its artists along with Darrell Ann Gane-McCalla and Shea Justice.