Early Renditions

Armando in reflection

In 2018, the Mirror Project launched as a two-year program of the Gift of Compassion / Commonweal (south). The conversation and art project aims to explore what, if anything, is California’s shared narrative on health, wellness, and well-being.

The first quarter of 2018 was a planning and outreach phase in which individuals were contacted to ask for input and a chance to meet.  The goal was to reach a diverse cross-section of people who live and work in California.  The rest of the calendar year was dedicated to meeting with individuals and communities across the state to ask how what they see as a shared narrative thread in a very dynamic population. 

In 2019, after more than 15 interviews, 3 community conversations, and countless hours of internal processing of contributions made, a foundation for deeper understanding about California’s narrative has begun to take form. 

The final set of conversations with individuals will be completed in the first quarter of 2019. A complete body of artwork, inspired by these conversations, will be produced along with a plan to disseminate and engage a much broader audience throughout the remainder of the year. 

There appears to be a shared narrative about health, wellness, and well-being in California and it is being co-created by the diversity of this state.  Further, people are seeking transcendence toward equity, justice, and compassion.

Not only has the Mirror Project found viewpoints that diverge, it also has reached across disciplines, so that activists/organizers, educators, philanthropy, health policy experts, faith leaders, and former prisoners have all been a part of the conversation.  In many instances, the unheard voices of California have been captured.  And the spirit of determination and creativity and soulful dedication is undeniable.

Here are reflections on what has been emerging:

  • Californians are self-aware on every level. As individuals, there is a quality of “early adopter” behavior that transforms into trends that take hold across the country.  As communities, there is a quality of co-creation that repeats again and again, especially in communities of Color where economic, social, cultural marginalization has taken hold for generations.  As part of a larger, societal phenomenon, public discourse about the ways people can change national health policy is cutting edge. 
  • The values of equity, opportunity, and justice are drivers. Among those who are actively and consciously engaged in changing negative health conditions and increasing access to health services/care, these themes are a constant.  Activists are organizing to take more control over access to knowledge and processes to change all kinds of negative conditions in communities from toxic air/water exposures, to recognizing the existence of food deserts, to the lack of affordable housing, to violence prevention, to reentry from years of incarceration.
  • It is not just about money. The most disenfranchised and invisible members of communities across the state are being seen as Californians wake up to the reality that some of the most critical threats to the population are environmental conditions that are beyond financial fixes.  There is growing recognition that in order for threats to health and well-being to be minimized, a shift in consciousness is needed.  Therefore, many are engaged in leadership development – especially among young people.  Also, those who manage and direct financial resources are seeing and hearing the voices of organizers in communities.  Innovative grant making strategies are being adopted in order to account for the lessons being shared from communities who have organized.  Finally, the experts in health regulatory and policy development are moving in a direction that recognizes the importance of ensuring that more people are provided with options for health care access because it is clear that the costs of failing to maintain the health and wellness of a population could produce collective financial disaster.
  • Families forgotten. The rural parts of the state continue to suffer a disproportionate burden of struggle as access to care is limited by geography, the shortage of health care providers, the closure of hospitals, and the income/economic disadvantage among rural versus urban populations.  The intersection between health maintenance, access to care, community economic conditions, and the culture of rural communities is being eroded. Click here to read stories about the quality of life in California’s rural communities has been virtually lost.
  • The reality of inter-connectedness and the importance of spirit and soul are readily recognized in California. Whether it is in the form of church, temple, mosque, forest, sea, or the results of hard-driving organizing — the population in California recognizes that health outcomes are related to something beyond conventional therapies and interventions in clinics and hospital settings.  Almost every individual and in community conversations, when asked about what drives continuing effort – the response was related to the belief that humanity, dignity, compassion are fundamental.

California is, without doubt, a leader in advancing beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to health. In this first 2019 entry, we begin to share.