Standing Together

April-June 2022
By Tia Wheeler, UFAD Boston Member

Standing Together by Tia Wheeler

When I started working on the cover image for this issue, I already knew the direction that I wanted to take in regards to how the picture should be drawn. In order to do this, I decided to utilize two contrasting art styles and aesthetics to describe some of the injustices that come about in the midst of privatization and, ultimately, gentrification. I chose a simplified variation of the steampunk (known for its retro-futuristic aesthetics and steam technology) and synthwave (known for wireframe landscapes and mostly utilized in the Tron movies and video games) styles as a way of visually depicting the changes. As a result, I created two drafts that captured a moment in the privatization of a fictional neighborhood called “Gear Town”. The first picture depicted a young man looking over his neighborhood from a skywalk with a luggage bag next to him. Construction equipment and futuristic buildings surrounded the neglected and dilapidated buildings with gears and pipes running through them. While this would usually be touted as a good thing, the young man has been displaced by the process and has resigned himself to just accept the situation that he’s been dealt.

Unfortunately, it isn’t too difficult to see our hero’s resignation (coupled with his feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness) in the lives of those who are in a position of socio-economic disadvantage in most given situations, particularly here in the United States of America. This is something that has historically been consistent since the formation of this country: the most power, representation, and voice is usually reserved for individuals and entities in possession of large amounts of wealth and what remains is distributed among those within their favor, while the “common people,” those who have lower incomes such as the working class and the poor, are left at the mercy of their whims and biases. At the end of the day, the wealthy will continue amassing wealth while the regular person winds up penniless and in the streets, so the sentiment can become, as I quote a rather eccentric family friend, “you can’t fight City Hall”.

The second picture, as you can see on the cover, takes on a completely different outlook in which the setting is actually in the streets of Gear Town and its residents are actively protesting the take-over and demolition of their homes. Many of the signs and posters are calling out the greed of the developers and banks that only see these properties as investments as well as the intentionally incompetent politicians on both sides who serve these entities and offer empty platitudes to the affected residents. Although it still carries the implications that the system is unfairly rigged in favor of those who have power, the people of the community are not simply accepting it. Regardless of the location or time, history has shown us time after time that real systematic change (no matter how large or small) can only be brought about when those who have been treated unfairly by those in power stand up and push back against them. Like the young man in the top hat, we should reach out to those who like our displaced hero who may not see that there is an alternative to the despair that they are being forced to live in, and encourage them to join the struggle.

While the final picture does not depict a glorious victory for the residents of Gear Town in which the playing field is finally evened out and everyone’s rights are respected regardless of their lack of wealth, standing up and taking action is a step that must be taken by them (and us) if we want to see a world in which all people are truly respected and treated fairly.

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