The Power of Friendship Transforms Art and Activism

Last year I met Julie Sulik, the development director for Friends Association for Children, a non-profit working to safeguard and nurture the dreams of underprivileged youth in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia. Julie has a host of responsibilities, but one of her most sacred charges is to spread the story of Lucy Goode Brooks, a former slave who took on the task of making a safe space for orphaned slaves returning to Richmond after the Civil War.

The innovative Mrs. Brooks understood she should not tackle this challenge alone, so she solicited the help of her peers and a group of Quaker women whom she thought might be sympathetic to her cause. Together these women convinced the city of Richmond to annex a piece of land and an old building to benefit these children. Friends Association owes their ethos and their charter to the mission of Lucy Goode Brooks and her friends--they continue her work to this day.

When Julie Sulik was looking for a way to get this story out to the world, she decided that nothing could compare to art as a means of communicating the passion and power of Lucy Goode Brooks, Friends and the many circles of women who have worked so hard over the years to bring about social change. She enlisted the help of artist and jewelry designer Elisa Saucy based in Portland, Oregon. Julie chose the very apt phrase "Isn't it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?" and Eliza created the Lucy bracelet. Friends sells the bracelet as a way to spread Lucy's story, but more importantly as a means of celebrating the way women's friendships can bring incredible hope to the world.

This phrase--Isn't it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?--has been ringing in my ears this week as all over the web, I see groups of creative and artistic women collaborating to do amazing work in a variety of fields.

Bloggers Bella and Meg Casey solicited art, jewelry and a host of other donations for a special Ebay auction to benefit Jenni Ballantyne, a single mother from Australia fighting stage four colon cancer. Tracey Clark's Shutter Sisters jumped on board to provide a beautiful collection of prints from some of the most talented photographers on the web. You can browse the auction here.

Independent publisher Karen Neudorf recently released the latest issue of Beyond, an ads-free magazine dedicated to celebrating the art of being human. With minimal funding and lots of grassroots support, Karen and her circle of friends are able to produce a high-quality award-worthy magazine that consistently delivers artful, intelligent and engaging content without advertisements competing for your valuable attention. You can subscribe to Beyond here.

This month the readers of my blog are underwriting the production, printing and delivery costs of an independently published zine written by a Rwandan woman, Odette Umurerwa. Odette developed a micro-finance project with her brother when they were seven and nine living in refugee camps in Uganda, and the story is beautifully captured in a little book that I'm in the process of illustrating. This inspiring story of children helping themselves through the power of their friendships and natural ingenuity will be a tool for girls' empowerment, literacy and education about how microfinance can empower children. This project is a direct by-product of Odette's willingness to befriend and inspire a group of women (myself included) to rally around a very inspiring cause.

Aimee from Greeblemonkey helped sponsor a Kids Art Auction for Earth Day with the encouragement of her readers. In this case, Aimee's community rallied and her invitation gave a whole lot of parents a fantastic opportunity to help their kids do something tangible to address the global climate crisis. You can see the submissions in the Flickr Pool.

Isn't it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?

I'm wearing my bracelet today and looking for more signs that art, friendship and activism really do change the world. How about you?


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