People across the globe are bearing witness to some pretty historic times. Lest we forget, there's still a worldwide pandemic, and many supporters — including those who are immunocompromised — of the Black Lives Matter movement continue to seek safe ways to join demonstrations in Los Angeles. Enter Bear the Truth, a social distancing-friendly activist art installation that Angelenos of all ages can participate in.
On Sunday, June 28, the protest will deploy an adorable army of teddy bears at the steps of City Hall in Downtown to demand racial equality for children of today and future generations. L.A. residents can "join" by decorated stuffed animals and include a personal message, then drop off their art at one of the many collection locations across the city, including in Burbank, Calabasas, Culver City, Sherman Oaks, and other spots. Bear the Truth is also looking for volunteers who can help pick up, transport, and organize the furry activists.
The teddy bear-powered demonstration was created by L.A. realtor and former pro tennis player Sabaea Carrington Wynter, her stepdaughter (and Bear the Truth creative director) Sydni Wynter, and their neighbor Lily-Mae Young. Lead artist and mother Ava Mae is also teaming with the trio to lend her creative talents to the project.
Following the nationwide protests against police brutality sparked by George Floyd's murder, Sabaea says that friends and family wanted to know how she was explaining the events as a Black mother to her young son.
"My immediate response is that I wasn't going to, because he wouldn't understand. However, after [my neighbor] Lily came to me with the idea of this project, I realized that I needed to shift my thinking," Sabaea tells UncoverLA. "We often dismiss young children, as children, without realizing that there's always a way to communicate and that we shouldn't deprive anyone of that opportunity because we don't know how."
Sydni, a New York University student who's temporarily back home in L.A. due to the coronavirus, is no stranger to taking action for social justice through art. While in high school, she drove to Ferguson, Missouri to photograph the town two years after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Currently a junior majoring in Media, Culture, and Communications (she's also minoring in political science), Sydni recently co-created a podcast, Crying In Public, where she and five other NYU women share their constructive conversations on everything from racism to relationships.
Ahead of this weekend's installation, mother-and-daughter team Sabaea and Sydni took time out of their busy schedules to chat more about how the campaign born, what they hope participants and spectators learn, and more. Read on below, and learn how to get involved at @bearthetruth.
We imagine there have been some difficult and raw discussions. What are some of the more positive interactions that you feel has come from all of this?
Sabaea: Parents are looking for resources to educate, encourage and inspire their children to be part of a new generation of change. This has to be the most positive outcome of the movement that is taking place: The unity of Americans in creating a better future for the next generations. Working with and meeting with incredibly generous parents who all share a common passion for both their children and the cause, is that exact sentiment we are hoping to nurture and expand upon.
Sydni: While this moment in our country has been difficult and raw for so many who are drained and debilitated by the continuous injustice our community is subjected to, recent events have seen a shift in national conversation. However, the conversation is no longer being confined to just the Black community, but widened to America as a whole.
People are taking the initiative to educate themselves through books, articles, movies, podcasts, or whatever medium speaks to them, and are in turn able to teach their children at a young age, what they weren't able to learn until they were adults. I think everyone is realizing too that this isn't entirely about now, it's about the future.
What was the "a-ha" moment that led to the idea of using teddy bears for this incredible campaign?
Sabaea: We wanted to find a way to represent all the children in this city, but we also knew it needed to be safe considering that we are in a global pandemic, while also being representative of the diverse community of kids so we thought teddy bears, like a teddy bear picnic, felt like the perfect fit. No matter the generation, teddy bears have always symbolized a kind of child-like innocence. It is usually a child's first "toy," and is one of the vehicles used to teach young children the power of love, nurture, companionship, and compassion, and arguably are key in developing a child's character.
One of the key takeaways from this movement is that racism, injustice, and hate are qualities and feelings that aren't inherent or innate, but are rather learned. Therefore using something tangible for a child, such as a teddy bear, acted as a way of being able to explain to a young child the complexity of what is happening. Because teddy bears come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, they can be used to explain that these qualities are what make them unique, but do not take away from their value and worth. Being able to instill these qualities in a young child can help prevent these same issues from permeating their generation as well.
What do you hope that people (including participants) take away from the campaign?
Sydni: We hope that the main takeaway from this campaign is that it is never too young to teach your child the power of love, compassion, service, and allyship. The purpose of this campaign is to allow for a space for families to have a conversation with their children about what is happening in the world in a manner that is visible and palpable. This project is meant to give a voice to the youngest generation, and instill in them the values to take their futures into their own hands, while also giving them the tools to create a better America for themselves: The power of collective action, love, and empathy.