Sunshine is composed of all colors that exist. And it is only with all these colors together that sunshine is a powerful source for warmth, for growth, and for rainbows.
The sun was shining on a beautiful Saturday in the rainbow nation—South Africa—as a crowd of young people gathered eagerly in front of Blue Roof with paintbrushes at the ready. The task at hand: to create a vibrantly colorful paint-by-numbers artwork of the word “Diversity” surrounded by cheerful ladybugs, trees, and rainbows.
Youth from several different programs housed at the Blue Roof Life Space participated in the event: notably Made4More (a disabled youth empowerment group) and Lalela (Blue Roof’s art program), in collaboration with a local street artist committed to bringing the community together through art. The children of Made4More live together at a group home because they have been outcasted for various physical disabilities or for albino genes. And yet, they were lively when I met them that Saturday morning, expressing to me a love for art, music, and even dance despite their limitations. Their big bright smiles and generous hugs marked incredible strength, love, and acceptance. Lalela is a community outreach program that conducts art classes that encourage students to think about, process, and share how they feel about their communities within a safe, comfortable space. I work closely with this program, and have loved getting to know and encouraging the young artists.
These and other initiatives, such as an HIV clinic, career guidance, and dance program make reality Blue Roof’s vision to be a space for youth to heal, dream, and create. The support, safe space, and education available at the centre are greatly needed. The community and its children are faced with deep and pressing societal problems, especially domestic abuse, violence, poverty, and drug use. But together as a Blue Roof family on a Saturday, sharing pots of paint, laughing, and playfully swiping paint on each other’s faces, the children are remarkably able to build resilience and optimism and create friendships in spite of their challenges, and in spite of disabilities and stigma. The color-by-number set-up of the “Diversity” mural painting fostered participation, inclusion, and a sense of empowerment, by allowing everyone to contribute. Amidst all the brokenness, a simple pot of paint can be used to heal divides, renew, inspire, and welcome. I realized that day the duality of color; color is often used as a tool to separate, but it is a tool to beautify and create. One photo I love shows the power of diversity in a team fist bump with the Made4More children at the mural painting. Albino, pigmented, Chinese-American, Zulu, paint smears too— the photo is colorful. It reminds me that we are people of all colors, not only in literal skin color but also in talent, interest, and personality. And it is with all these colors together that we are made powerful; we become a ray of sunshine capable of creating rainbows in the rain.