Over the past four years, the situation in America for refugees and migrants has greatly worsened, reaching an unprecedented high. The "zero tolerance" policy enacted during Donald Trump's tenure, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic caused the number of refugees held at the border to skyrocket.
On August 1st, 2021, more than 2,200 unaccompanied children were in the custody of the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with the majority of children of Mexican nationality being sent home.
The average time these refugee children spend in CBP is around 60 to 72 hours in facilities not appropriate for minors, with young children having to huddle together and sleep in foil blankets on mattresses on the floor.
The increase in refugees and worsening situation at the border is alarming social rights advocates and artists who work extensively to raise awareness and change to these unapologetic situations and inequalities.
This crisis affected one artist in particular. In 2018, Marissa Bridge created a piece called Flower for Detained Children, a white flower on a wire surface, meant to give hope to the thousands of children separated from their families.
"My Buddhist practice compelled me to create something that would make positive change in the world. The news coming from the US border with Mexico was devastating, and I decided to do something for the children in the detention centers in Texas, the children that have been separated from their parents, placed in cages, and who have suffered terribly,” explains Bridge regarding her work.
“I want them to know that someone is thinking about them, someone is sending them love and hope in the form of a white flower."
From a very early age, art has been a crucial part of Bridge’s life, linking her practice with spirituality and the power to make a statement. She gives special importance to the potential that art has to showcase individual beliefs and give voice to social inequalities. Bridge’s concern for these inequities and the cross-national collaboration needed to address them underline the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Reduced Inequalities and Partnerships for the Goals.
Flower for Detained Children will be exhibited along with other American artists in a 2020 exhibition organized by the artist Virginia Mallon entitled Artists for Social Justice — an exhibition that aims to support those striving for freedom and to raise their voice against oppression.
Bridge mixed media flower piece takes a stand against human rights violations sprouting up along the US border, but it is also an embodiment of hope and an amalgam of innocence and freedom. Even though this may seem a small act, it bears the intentions and refusal of individuals to look away from these pressing matters.
Climate justice and social justice go hand in hand, although countries and policies continue to disregard their importance. This year's COP26 European Summit is the perfect example, with the loss and damage of the final Glasgow Climate pact failing the world's most vulnerable people who are directly affected by the consequences of climate change. Therefore, the burden falls on activists and artists to demand change and conduct reformulations with beauty and simplicity.
Bridge donated the funds from the sale of Flower for Detained Children to the Women’s Refugee Commission. You can join her by donating here.