This card design came out of a Holiday Print workshop I taught at the HPAC. I got the idea from a birthday card my brother-in-law sent my wife for her birthday. Its part of a series called Zoo Portraits by Yago Partal, and featured a badger in a sweater and suspenders (jumper and braces actually, but I thought writing that would present a different mental image to us American English speakers). Animals in sweaters are adorable. Period.
Four different sweaters, Four different animal heads, a blank area to customize and some glitter glue and stamps for added decoration resulted in an explosion of cute variations. Looking at the table spread out with everyone’s different but similar cards, it was like a holiday work party at the zoo complete with an ice breaker activity of walking around with a placard and trying to find a mate. My sister Lisa was at this workshop and at the beginning she said to me ‘You like to use animals’. ‘Yeah, because everyone can see themselves in them’, I replied. I wanted to have a card that people could customize in their own way but also give to anyone who would identify with it. We had a Hanukkah sweater, a Christmas sweater with trees and reindeer, a winter sweater in the Pan-African colors for Kwanzaa, and a Star Wars themed sweater for the rest of us. There were stamps of different hats and people made their own for the placard area, candles, coffee cups, hearts, the word Joy. We all got to make cards to give out that were handmade and personal, fun and meaningful, a good expression of what we call the holiday spirit, a communal act of giving and celebration.
For my own cards, I thought a lot about what message I wanted to say. It’s presidential campaign season so everything in the news is really polarized, whipping up our fears so that we throw our votes and money behind a candidate. Meanwhile, the Chicago political machine is (rightly) under fire for corruption, for police shootings, for cover-ups and purposefully withholding public information. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the most segregated city in the US, and the damage of that systematic discrimination is undeniable. It has become clear that the people of Chicago do not care about Black people. I’m speaking generally of course, but its definitely not a priority because we keep electing aldermen and mayors and judges who keep this system going.
There is always a lot of talk about the Constitution during an election year and how it should be interpreted and preserved and which parts matter more and which parts matter less. The part that has always stuck in my brain most was the 3/5 compromise, or the agreement to count slaves of African descent as 3/5 of a person when determining population since they held no rights as a citizen and could not vote or exercise any self determination. Until the 14th Amendment, added almost 80 years later, this was the law. I owe a lot to the 14th amendment. Invoking this amendment in Obergefell v. Hodges is what paved the way to my marriage being recognized everywhere. The 14th amendment came at a great cost. 80 years of a significant population of our nation, a population that worked their entire lives in servitude, bore generations into servitude, legally being counted as less than a whole person. It took a bloody, bloody war that cost many lives and devastated cities and communities to get this changed and it was still a fight. It was a fight for another 90-ish years to get segregation to not be protected by law.
So this year, the cards my cute, wintry animals carried read Black Lives Matter. Not because Black people matter more than anyone else but because it is important to finally stand in solidarity and make it clear that Black lives matter equally.