By: Sara Ries Dziekonski
Hi Friends! I’m excited to tell you about an awesome project that I’m involved in, and one that is very important to me. I was recently asked to create an ekphrastic poem (a poem written about art) that was inspired by one of the murals created for the You Good? Behavioral Health Campaign, which is directed and funded by the Foundation of a Healthy St. Pete in partnership with Creative Pinellas. The murals and poems for this project are meant to not only raise awareness about mental health, but to encourage people to get help for their mental health challenges, so all the murals around the city provide contact information for mental health services. Each mural includes the phrase YOU GOOD? and this is meant to be a starting point to begin the conversation about mental health.
I was so thrilled that I would be writing about Briauna Walker’s gorgeous mural. You can follow this incredible artist by clicking here: https://www.instagram.com/natural_exchange/
When I first saw a picture of the mural, I was immediately drawn to the black sky with stars, the fluffy clouds surrounding the hands, and what struck me the most was how the hands were from different people which was obvious because of the different skin color. These hands were facing each other, each holding an end of a piece a paper that asked “You good? and provided the resources to seek help. To me the hands from different bodies signify a community of support that is out there, ready to help anyone in need. I believe the poems and murals have the power to propel people to seek help and even save lives. Raising awareness in this way will also help to remove some of the stigma associated with people who have these challenges. I hope that people see the art and know they are cared about.
This project is very dear to me because mental health challenges are present in my family and I myself face these challenges. When I saw the words “You Good?” I immediately thought of a time recently when I was feeling exhausted and anxious, and a friend text messaged me to ask how I was doing. The auto-reply responses across my screen were I’m okay, I’m doing great! and I’m good. I remember thinking how there’s not even an option to be less than okay, that society expects us to respond with a smile even when we’re suffering. I thought of how many times I myself have smiled when I really wanted to cry. I’ll share with you the first few stanzas of my poem, “Lanterns Lifting” which was inspired by Briauna Walker’s You Good? mural (The entire poem is over two pages long):
this is both a statement
(you are so gorgeously good)
and a question—
How are you?
and don’t give me your
like when a friend texts “How are you?”
and the only options spanning the screen are:
I’m doing great!
and I’m good,
and all those vacant variations.
We’ve clawed through enough fast-food answers
searching for shreds of substance
to know society’s expectations.
we’re not good,
Ok, that is all for this blog post.
Bright one, thank you for being you.