The Awakenings Project by Marissa Southards
By Sharee Silerio

When Marissa Southards picked up a camera three years ago, she was simply trying something new. One day, her husband Brian, a pencil artist, brought a professional-level camera home so he could work in a different medium.

Active in St. Louis protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, she took the camera into the streets to capture what was going on.

“You see an image, and it angers you, or it makes you mad. Or it inspires you. We are now equipped with the ability to tell our own story, because we have cameras now. One of the best quotes that I have ever heard was ‘The revolution will not be televised.’ And it won't be. We're telling our own story and we're doing it through pictures.”

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After reviewing her protest photos, Southards’ husband noticed that she captured some unforgettable moments. Though her work was beautiful, she rejected the part of her that was an artist.

“I felt like, I'm a mom. I'm a career professional. I'm a wife. I'm an activist. These are the most important things,” she said. “Yes, I have this creativity, but I'm not going to do anything about it.”

After flipping through Instagram, she came upon a photo of her friend Ashley, covered but topless, fully without shame.

“Her attitude was, ‘If you don't like it, look away, but I love who I am.’ There was something about this woman owning everything about who she is that sparked something in me. I call it Revelation X because it was that true moment that I realized I am really stuck in my own way."

With her husband’s help, she took a photo of the word “empowered” on her bare back, put it in black and white, and then posted it on social media. She received a lot of positive feedback, and her friend Julie proposed using her space, the botanical beauty store Blissoma, for a shoot. After planning and promoting, they expected 10, maybe 12 women to show up.

Marissa Southards 
“There was a line. I ended up getting 52 women, girls and Trans women who were ready to reclaim themselves. Every woman chose a word that best reflected them, and it was not the label that society gave them,” says Southhards.

Thus, on October 29, 2016, The Awakenings Project was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The series was so powerful that Southards did it again. This past summer, she shot Awakenings II in Mattoon, IL, St. Louis, and Chicago, which included 101 participants. Awakenings III, which kicked off in Chicago this past weekend, has a wait list and will span multiple cities such as Louisville, Kentucky; Mobile, AL; St. Louis; Mattoon; and more.

Testimony

Oracle
Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
Using the body as a form of empowerment, protest, healing and reclamation has become a passion for Southards. This January, she planned an action during the St. Louis Women’s March when its leaders decided to silence women of color by disregarding their point of view, feelings and experiences.

“For generations, white women's bodies have been put on a pedestal. They have been used to shame women of color. Specifically, if you don't fit this idea, if you don't look like me, we're going to shame you. We decided to take back the messaging of our own bodies,” Southhards explains.

During the march, seven women walked down Market Street with little to no clothing on, and messages written on them such as: 53% of white women voted for Trump; Black Women Matter; Black Trans Women Matter; Resist; and No Justice, No Peace. By the end of the march, the group had grown to about 42 women.

Women's March 2017
Kelly Morrison, one of the models for Awakenings II, also participated in Southards’ Women’s March action says,

“There is something really beautiful and empowering about stripping away the context of everyone's opinion of you and focusing on how you see yourself, and putting that word on your body for all to see."
When using the female body as a form of protest, Southards feels that it's important to focus on issues that impact all women.

“Body as canvas is not a form of protest utilized very often. There's a very human element to it, and it’s very risky," says Marissa. "You have to be very cautious about it. But because it is so visual, the impact is bold. There is no way to ignore it."

To keep up with activist and photographer Marissa Southards, follow her on Facebook  & Instagram

Do you think bodies used as canvas is a viable form of protest?
 Sharee Silerio is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, Film and TV writer-producer, and blogger. When she isn’t creating content for The Root or The St. Louis American, she enjoys watching drama/sci-fi/comedy movies and TV shows, writing faith and self-love posts forSincerelySharee.com, relaxing with a cup of chai tea, crafting chic DIY event décor, and traveling. Review her freelance portfolio at ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Tamika D. Mallory speaking at the Women's March on Washington
There is nothing sexier than impacting positive change. And when we say sexy, we're talking about fearlessly walking in your purpose in such a way that everyone can't help but take notice of and appreciate how truly badass you are. We're talking #humanitygoals, #growuptobelikeyou, #pleaseupdatehistorybooks sexy. And for this reason, it's important to pay homage to women currently living and working among us who are taking social activism to the next level, inspiring the rest of us to ask ourselves,  'What am I doing to bring about change?' While there are countless powerful sistah's out there leading in communities across the country, we decided to highlight seven women giving us #activismgoals!

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Tamika D. Mallory

Chances are, you've seen Tamika D. Mallory, the outspoken champion for social justice who helped organize the Women's March on Washington, attended by over 300,000 here, and sparked duplicate marches across the globe. The 36 yr old New York native has been applauded as an advocate for civil rights issues, equal rights for women, health care, gun violence, and police misconduct. Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama called her “a leader of tomorrow” and she was selected to serve on the transition committee of New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio. 


 
Johnetta Elzie Image via Getty/Jason LaVeris
Moved to action by the death of Michael Brown, Johnetta Elzie made a splash among Ferguson protesters by aiding with volunteer coordination and live tweeting surrounding events effectively becoming a leading citizen journalist on the protests. Later, she went on to co-create the website and database MappingPoliceViolence.org which tracks all people killed by police. Elzie currently leads We The Protesters, an organization which supports nationwide protest groups in combatting police violence and systemic racism through policy change.




Dr. Moya Bailey
If you’ve ever used the word “misogynoir,” you can thank Dr. Moya Bailey for its existence. Her devotion to examining the way Black women are represented in pop culture led her to coin the term as well as pursue Women’s Studies and activism. An assistant professor at Northeastern University, Dr. Bailey co-created Quirky Black Girls (a network that celebrates Black girls who exist outside of social norms) and the Crunk Feminist Collective (a supportive space for queer and straight hip hop gen feminists of color). She also is the digital alchemist for the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network.





Monica Raye Simpson

Before Monica Raye Simpson relocated to Georgia to work with and eventually lead the Atlanta-based SisterSong, the queer Black North Carolina native rallied against racism, human rights abuses, prison industry and violence against Black women and LGBTQ people. The facilitator/speaker/organizer/singer is also a certified doula. Now the executive director of SisterSong, Simpson created the organization’s Artists United for Reproductive Justice project which supports artistic collaborations on replicable artwork to further SisterSong’s cause of women’s reproductive health rights.




Patrice Cullors
In the wake of Trayvon Martin's tragic death, Los Angeleno organizer, artist and freedom fighter Patrisse Cullors' co-founded hashtag #BlackLivesMatter jumpstarted the civil rights fight of our time. Her activism, however didn't begin or end with the multi-issue global, Black queer femme-led intersectional movement. Before that, Cullors led a crusade against inmate abuse as the executive director of End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails and has since confounded prison activist organization Dignity and Power Now. She also serves as board member of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights





Ciara Taylor 
Having built a reputation for taking on the causes of living wages for Florida A&M campus workers and combatting K-20 budgets cuts, Ciara Taylor was in prime activist form to take to the streets following Trayvon Martin's shooting. Her response to the tragic killing was co-founding Dream Defenders which works on human rights issues, ending police brutality and shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline. She currently serves the organization as the director of political consciousness and develops and executes statewide political, educational and leadership development programming.




Tanya Fields
Having experienced the challenges of gaining access to healthy and affordable food in the Bronx, Tanya became active with South Bronx-Mothers on the Move, the Majora Carter Group and Sustainable South Bronx.  The community activist and public speaker founded the BLK ProjeK in 2009 to further combat wealth inequality, the cycle of poverty and institutionalized sexism. The BLK ProjeK creates economic growth opportunities for women and youth of color through education, urban gardening, public space beautification, and community programming. She also created and stars in a web-based cooking and lifestyle show Mama Tanya’s Kitchen where she teaches how to prepare affordable gourmet meals.


Who are your favorite activists right now?

Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70's era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.
Drea Woolfolk (my sister-in-law) and Elaine Lee (Momma) of Girls Inc. St. Louis
#HandsUp #Ferguson #StayWoke

Hola Chicas,

Hundreds of children will not be starting school this week in Ferguson, MO due to civil unrest in their community.  This leaves working parents without childcare and students bored at home.

Today through Sunday (from 8am-2pm), Girls Inc of St. Louis is a part of a collective that has joined forces at Dellwood Recreation Center (near the burned QuikTrip at 10266 West Florissant) to provide supplies, activities and food for the students and families of the Ferguson-Florissant School district.  There's also transportation (my Uncle Bob) for those who need it.  Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you need to contact the team in Dellwood or would like to volunteer! 

Also, Girls Inc of STL has opened their doors (in Normandy) from 8am-5pm, Wednesday-Friday. They are accepting up to 300 Ferguson-Florissant girls, free of charge and are providing breakfast, lunch and a snack each day. Momma said they are definitely in need of food for the girls and are accepting donations.  Again, email me at [email protected] if you'd like to be connected to their team to send donations. 

Parents, grandparents, friends and fam look on as their kiddos run around the Dellwood Rec center. It's a large, open, air conditioned space for the kids to safely play basketball, throw footballs, visit activity tables (with reading and drawing) and eat snacks!  The parents are given groceries and supplies as well.   

What can you do? 
Below you'll find info on how you can get involved, even at a distance-- whether you want to send supplies to the students of Ferguson, send money to Mike Brown's family, or sign a petition to end police brutality, you'll get all the deets below! 


DONATIONS FOR MIKE BROWN'S FAMILY:


Michael Brown Memorial Fund:

These funds will assist his family with costs that they will incur as they seek justice on Michael’s behalf. All funds will be given to the Michael Brown family.
http://www.gofundme.com/justiceformikebrown

College 4 MikeBrown’s Siblings:
This effort will help support Mike Brown’s siblings, 2 younger sisters and a younger brother go to college. It is run by Sara Goldrick-Rab, UW professor of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab 
(http://www.wihopelab.com) and Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (Madison, WI) who can vouch that all funds will go directly to the family.
http://www.gofundme.com/d1rprk

OTHER DONATIONS:

Jail support info for those who are arrested at Mike Brown rallies in Ferguson.
https://twitter.com/organizemo/status/499671321643454464/photo/1

Bail and Legal Fund for Those Arrested During Ferguson Anti-Police Demonstrations:
A bail and legal fund has been established to support people who have been arrested during the anti-police demonstrations in Ferguson, MO. If you have a friend or family member who was arrested, please email us their name at [email protected]
http://antistatestl.noblogs.org/post/2014/08/11/bail-and-legal-fund-for-those-arrested-during-ferguson-anti-police-demonstrations/

I AM HUMAN-Support Ferguson
All proceeds from these shirts and hoodies will go to support the protesters in Ferguson demonstrating peacefully against the unjust murder of unarmed teen, Mike Brown. Once the protesting stops, then the rest of the proceeds will go to support the legal defense for Mike Brown. These start at $16. Please refer to the teespring campaign for more details:
http://teespring.com/IAMHUMANDONTSHOOT

#OperationHelpOrHush
have several campaigns in which you can participate:
-Donations to protestors in Ferguson to provide food and other supplies. All monies will go directly to purchase those items. This is for PAYPAL DONATIONS ONLY: [email protected] pic.twitter.com/ctApKXoTdm

-The also have tshirts available, all proceeds will go to fund this campaign
http://teespring.com/operationhelporhush1

-Finally, they are looking for medical and mental health professionals, counselors, as well as community organizers to go to Ferguson to assist those who are in that area. Also if you are willing to donate sky miles or buddy passes please contact: Please use this email address for volunteer services only: [email protected]

AMAZON GIFTLISTS:

These items are being directly shipped to St. Louis, MO to assist protestors who are on the frontline in Ferguson. It includes toiletries, items to help them clean up the area, food, etc. You can also send notes in some of the packages shipped. http://www.amazon.com/registry/giftlist/T5SQYC5B5IJZ

There is also an amazon wish list set up to help children receive school supplies in Ferguson. This list is SEPARATE from the wish list that is set up for protestors: http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/2MUPOSAUM13TA/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_ws_RRT8tb01ARVJH

FEED THE STUDENTS OF FERGUSON:

This fund was originally set up to feed the students who go to school in Ferguson who were to start school on August 14th.  Many students in Ferguson rely on meals provided in school, and the delay in the start of classes means that many of the children will not eat. https://fundly.com/feed-the-students-of-ferguson#updates/blog/look_what_we_did-18296

*Jennings students still needing free lunch or any mental services can contact their school directly for more assistance* Referenced:http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/article_c2435462-d3e4-59f6-9edd-2ae6b5cfe438.html

St. Stephen’s Food Pantry
They help distribute food to those in need and currently, due to the situation going on in Ferguson, they were looted and those goods go to needy families in that area. They need boxed meals such as Hamburger Helper and lots of toiletries. Donations are now being accepted on their website: http://saint-stephens.info/collaboration/our-community-the-vine/food-pantry/

Here is the contact info for shipping items:
St. Stephen’s Food Pantry
33 N Clay Ave Ferguson, MO 63135
Ph: 314-521-0138

St. Louis Business Journal has created a list resource list for those who also need assistance in their community. Their list will also be updated as they collect more information. Please click link:http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/morning_call/2014/08/as-unrest-continues-in-ferguson-volunteers.html?ana=twt

St. Louis Urban League: http://www.ulstl.com/
They are accepting donations for school supplies for the children in Ferguson and collecting non-perishable food items. Here is the 2014-2015 school supply list for the Ferguson/Florissant School District: http://www.fergflor.org/pages/Ferguson-Florissant_SD/Parents/6725006080717623026

If you wish to donate items to STL Urban League please ship them to:
ATTN: Barbara Bowman
Urban League Metropolitan of St. Louis
3701 Grandel Square
St. Louis, MO 63108
Please call 314-615-3668 for additional questions.

PETITIONS: 

-Petition for Federal Laws to Protect Citizens from Police Violence and Misconduct https://www.change.org/p/president-barack-obama-please-enact-new-federal-laws-to-protect-citizens-from-police-violence-and-misconduct

-Mike Brown Law. Requires all state, county, and local police to wear a camera:
A petition for a Mike Brown Law that will set aside funds to require all state, county, and local police, to wear a camera. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/mike-brown-law-requires-all-state-county-and-local-police-wear-camera/8tlS5czf

-Petition to remove Bob McCulloch from any grand jury proceedings in regards to the Micheal Brown investigation. Find information about it here: 


More pics of the Girls Inc collective in Dellwood-
Michelle, Drea (hubby's sister) and Momma 


this gentleman brought his grandson down to the rec center after hearing about it this morning.  He said, 'I'm a Ferguson resident and I'm so happy y'all are doing this, thank you!'  

they want to be known as 'the muscle', lol!  They have been bringing in heavy boxes of school books all day.  

in line at the Red Cross truck

food delivery!

Stay Woke,
Nik