In addition to teaching students about healthcare, the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program seeks to explore the impact of violence on society. Last week our interns met with Tieshka Smith, a healthcare administrator, artist, and social activist, to discuss the symptoms and possible cures of racial injustice.
Her project, appropriately titled Racism Is A Sickness, seeks to create a safe environment to discuss and examine the impact of racial injustice on communities and find ways to promote healing and empowerment. The centerpiece of the installation is a series of photographs of fourteen Philadelphia individuals who shared personal accounts of racial injustice. As part of the piece, each subject wears a surgical mask inscribed with a word describing how racism makes him/her feel; the backdrop to each photograph is the American flag hung upside down in the universal symbol of distress. The exhibit also includes several interactive elements where visitors can share their own thoughts and emotions: a wall where visitors can post the names of people close to them who were victims of racial violence, and a message board for visitors to share their thoughts on what they feel racial injustice means to them and to America.
Tieskha encouraged the Teva fellows to share their own thoughts about how racism makes them feel and discuss possible means of coping with those feelings. Getting teenagers to open up about difficult subjects is no easy task, but she made it look easy.
Racism Is A Sickness will be running at the Art Church of West Philadelphia through February 29. It will then appear at the Community College of Philadelphia from April 11-15 as part of Diversity Week with plans to travel to other Philadelphia locations through 2016 and 2017, followed by venues outside the city in 2018. For more information about the project, be sure to check out her site on Tumblr.