“I still remember that even though I’m drawn like a magnet to art and design, when I went to study fashion it was because I thought I could change the world because it was so obvious to me that people were wildly influenced by the images they saw in magazines and media. I myself knew that when I saw images of mixed races and ‘other’ races all celebrated, I felt a physical shift, a spiritual shift, a hope, a joy, a healing.Remember the Benetton ads, or the times that multiculturalism came ‘into style’ (and then out).” –Laura Volpintesta
Report by Paula Antolini
July 8, 2016 2:12PM EDT
OPINION: ‘There Is Only One of Us Here…’ by Bethel Resident Laura Volpintesta
“THERE IS ONLY ONE OF US HERE…”
I still remember that even though I’m drawn like a magnet to art and design, when I went to study fashion it was because I thought I could change the world because it was so obvious to me that people were wildly influenced by the images they saw in magazines and media.
?????????? I myself knew that when I saw images of mixed races and “other ” races all celebrated, I felt a physical shift, a spiritual shift, a hope, a joy, a healing.
Remember the Benetton ads, or the times that multiculturalism came “into style” (and then out).
I felt that if I were in that world, I could:
Flood the world with images that taught people whose minds were tightly closed (which hurts them more much as anyone else, spiritually) to see beauty in all people.
To feel more connected to people who they had considered “frightening” or “OTHER”.
To soften the hard edges of separation that we’d been taught. That were hurting all of us, as a nation.
When I got to the international design school, that played out in various ways. We had an international population (now more than ever), but….. Not only wasn’t diversity being valued as strongly as I hoped, but we weren’t even sketching women’s bodies properly. We were lying about them and encouraged to do so.
But that’s another topic.
Ironically, my fashion studies didn’t do so much to foster that initial dream although I definitely still am on that path.
I’m amazed at how slow change happens and how far there is to go. But I did get what I set out for in totally different ways while I was there.
German jazz students taught me about Afro American music history. Which lead to finally learning, lifelong, more and more Afro American history that I had never ever learned, even though it permeated every aspect of American life and music even when hidden or credited to someone else.
I became involved right away in an Afro-American gospel choir that performed at churches all over the boroughs of NYC. I got to eat in the basement kitchens of these churches, visit the neighborhoods, praise the Lord and join in song and clap together, (and admire the fabulous fashion too) in these communities that I had never been in before.
We rehearsed at the Museo deal Barrio. So did the Mambo big band orquestra, the Charanga band.
I studied in Paris, meeting people from Ivory Coast, Guinee, Mali. Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria every day.
Rating new foods, seeing new colors, hearing new music.
All of the people I’ve met along the way have invited me in with open arms and taught me, open-heartedly, time and again. About their cultures, their families, their humanity….Almost all.
Every time the “walls come down”, I don’t know about the rest of you, but the feeling is elation.
I believe more than ever that the change is so much bigger and widespread when it starts inside our own heart— not through hate but through learning to LOVE ourSELVES even MORE than we thought we did, if we thought we did.
Love softens edges.
We need to soften edges.
Fear hardens edges and cuts, and kills.
Laura is a fashion illustrator, teacher and singer.
Laura will be performing this Sunday, click below for more details.