Florida Young Dems Feature at RAW Space Art Walk

On Friday, June 1st, the Florida Young Democrats of Indian River (FYDIR) presented a special exhibit at RAW Space gallery as part of Art Walk: themselves. Entitled Portraits of the Resistance, the ongoing photo project seeks to document FYDIR members and place their civil involvement within the greater context of the American social justice movement. A sequel, this year’s exhibit was subtitled 2018: Blue Wave Edition for the tide of support for Democratic candidates in this year’s elections.

We are given chalk boards and told to look determined.

It is May 8th, 2018, the first birthday party. I’m still a relative newcomer to FYDIR, but I’m here with a purpose. After a sit-down and a homemade cupcake, I make my way to the alley next to the Irish-American Society. TS Harrington, local photographer, waits there with her camera. Another member is ahead of me to have her picture taken; she’s telling the story out loud that we’re all trying to summarize with hashtags and slogans: what brought us here. In my Star Wars shirt bearing Carrie Fisher’s iconographical face, stamped with the word “REBEL,” I feel my story is visually easy to figure out.

I write “She Persisted” and hold it next to me so the camera can see Carrie. Like Princess Leia, I have a bone to pick with the Empire. Over the course of a year, after watching the housing subsidies that keep my family and our neighbors from homelessness be cut, watching my rights as a worker dwindle, and suffering the financial effects of a burdensome tax code, I have joined FYDIR to find the local branch of my own Rebel Alliance. Instead of proton torpedoes, I have a vote and a voice, and no intention of surrendering either.

Both yearbook and art project, Portraits of the Resistance is illustrative of the evolution of a movement. The several dozen faces—two years’ worth of FYDIR membership—with their unique messages, cross the boundaries of age, gender, and cause. Rendered somberly in black-and-white, to see them all together carries the weight of a kind of memorial. The evidence of struggle, of breaking points reached (and leapt over), hangs in the eyes of many of the subjects like ghosts. But there is joy, too, and even laughter.

One witty subject advises with a megawatt smile: “Grab ‘em by the ballot!”

Women’s and civil rights, as well as environmental consciousness have been carried forward from last year’s post-election melee. Having tripped off the edge of a sociopolitical cliffhanger, the efforts of this year, so far, feel like rising action in the narrative driving our country towards inevitable change. Like following a decades-old franchise, we can’t claim to know the plot of this new story, but its spirit feels familiar. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” we can say, still in the middle chapters, “but we’re the heroes, and we’ll see it through to the end.”

And we persist.

To learn more about FYDIR and participate in the Portraits of the Resistance ongoing project, visit democratsofindianriver.org, or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fydirc/

–Natalia Watson