Webs of Care

Drummies by Alice Mann.

In July 2020, Eyebeam’s Digital Day Camp: Rituals of Care, an annual four-week summer camp for teenagers dedicated to artmaking and tech-learning skills, took place online. Shortly following shelter-in-place in the U.S. and the nationwide upheaval surrounding the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I crafted a week-long curriculum called “Webs of Care” for the camp. It centered on the idea that care is activated when our needs are met, and explored how taking care of ourselves might allow us to meet the needs of our communities via pod-mapping, collective manifesto making, and imagining a world of care. 

As part of the workshop, two cohorts of 16 teens used Are.na to find media, text, and visual cues representing their needs and what they imagine care to look like. We then created channels for each participant’s needs and connected them to the blocks of care they uploaded or found, culminating in a process where each need was met by connecting them on Are.na. Afterwards, we transferred our blocks into a Google Slides format and each person made their own slide to depict their community’s needs and acts of care. The result was a collectively made online guidebook documenting each person’s journey with care.

Some of the questions we explored in the workshop were: What is care? What does care feel like? How do we begin to take care of ourselves and others? And, In a time where online is the new norm, what are the platforms with which we can connect our needs and imaginations? 

After a few months had passed following the workshop, I wanted to reconnect with two of the participants to reflect on their newfound conceptions of care. Here, Rae Dand (16 years old), Onelson Nicholas (18 years old), and I discuss what care means through a few blocks in our collective channel.


Ingrid Raphael: Okay, so first let’s pick a block in our channel that isn’t yours. What does this block express to you? What do you like or enjoy about this?

Rae Dand: I really liked the connection to earth in this block, it made me think about how, when we think of care, we usually think of ourselves or other people, but not about the earth and how it cares for us and we care for it. It’s pointing out how even though we love to think that we as humans are so amazing, the only reason we are here is because of the earth.

Ingrid: Have you been able to implement this block in your day-to-day? If so, how? If not, what can you do to make that happen?

Rae: In my day-to-day life, I’ve found myself thinking a lot more about nature. Getting outside is hard for me, but when I do I’ve been a lot more conscious about the little parts of my environment and appreciating them, when I used to never notice. 

Onelson Nicholas: I think that response is beautiful. As Rae points out, when we think about care we normally think about our connections with people, and yet our lifeline, the ecosystem that we thrive on, is so undervalued. Maybe someone who lives in Hawaii, the Caribbean, or even in Africa, or in Poland, someplace cold, would value the ecosystem more than we do in the States, because they're interacting with nature more often than we do. As a matter of fact, most of our food is processed, but it originally came from the earth, so let's care for it just as we would for people.


Ingrid: What about you Onelson, what does the block you choose express to you? What do you like or enjoy about it?

Onelson: This block expresses our vulnerability. Many of us form relationships with people that are close to us because it's easier to feel secure and wanted. However, I believe bonds are meant to be cherished, and what better way to cherish something than by loving it from a distance? I love the simplicity of the block; it’s a question that we have all probably asked once or twice since quarantine started some months ago.

Ingrid: Have you been able to implement this block in your day-to-day? If so, how? If not, what can you do to make that happen?

Onelson: Certainly. I've connected with my school advisors, many of my classmates in high school and even some from middle school. I talked with my oldest half-brother, who's been incarcerated for 12 years, over the phone.

Ingrid: What can we do to make this block a possibility/a reality?

Onelson: We've been doing it already. From the Zoom calls to the FaceTimes and everything in between—more and more people have been connecting virtually than ever before. The best part isn't even the connections that we’ve made, it's the commitment that we've shown for ourselves as well as the people that we communicate with. We're saying, “We're going to make it through this, and when it's over let's not forget one another.”


Ingrid: Now pick a block that is yours. What does this block express to you? What do you like or enjoy about this?

Rae: To me this block is all about connection, friendship, and girlhood. I picked it because I had seen it recently and I remember feeling so much joy and love. The story behind it is that they are drum majorettes in South Africa, and the photographer says that the girls are “from some of the country’s most marginalized communities.” It made me think of when you’re younger and you have friends, and even though you all have problems, when you’re with them all you can think about is how much fun you’re having. The full photography collection is called Drummies by Alice Mann.

Ingrid: Have you been able to implement this block in your day-to-day? If so, how? If not, what can you do to make that happen?

Rae: In the past few months, I feel like I’ve grown a lot closer to my friends. Before, I was very distant from people, and I wasn’t going outside or meeting new people at all. Since then, I feel like we are slowly creating our own little community, growing with each other, talking a lot more, and finding ways to adapt to quarantine together. 

Ingrid: What can we do to make this block a possibility/a reality?

Rae: I think just speaking up helps a lot. It can be calling your friend and being like, “Hey i really miss you,” or it could be sending a welcome note to your new neighbor. Letting others know that you’re willing to do the work to connect and be together makes them a lot more comfortable reciprocating.


Ingrid: Now let’s pick a block that shows where you are in your journey with ‘care.’ How does it do that?

Onelson: Simply put, when I became 18 recently I was scrambling to find my own place. Getting a job hasn't  been easy (still isn't)  but even though I know  there are cracks in my future, I plan to take care of those close to me, and I’ll help whoever I can if my  circumstances allow.

Ingrid: What can we do to make this block a possibility/a reality?

Onelson: Take life into your own hands. You have to be ambitious, not rude or selfish to the people that have helped you get to where you are, but at the same time you can’t be so naive or spineless that you won't take the steps needed to take care of business.

The hardest part about caring for someone is knowing when to and not to drop the hammer.  Sometimes it's necessary for people to learn on their own and to make their own mistakes, and other times it's imperative that you only speak once and let the rest play out. But most importantly, you must know when enough is enough, there's only so much we can do with our lifetime, so do what you can and let others do the rest. 


Ingrid: Ok Rae, how does your block show where you are at with your journey with ‘care’?

Rae: For a while, I was really awful at caring for myself. I was okay at caring about other people, but caring for myself felt very selfish. I feel like now I’m getting into a rhythm of what I know I need to be doing for myself and what I know is actually attainable right now. Especially in the past few weeks, I’ve been making an effort to go outside, stretch, put my phone away, and other things. I think I’m in a very comfortable place where I know I’m not doing everything right or everything that’s good for me, but I’m doing pretty good so far, and I’m comfortable with that.

Ingrid: What can we do to make this block a possibility/a reality?

Rae: I think for comfortable silence to be real, we have to stop and pat ourselves on the back for the little things. With care, it seems like there’s a checklist of things to do so you’ll be ok, but it doesn’t work like that. So just accepting that I’m going to feel awful and not want to do some of this stuff sometimes, and that’s ok! And then appreciating what you have done in the moment, like getting out of bed, or eating breakfast. I think we get sidetracked trying to have everything and be perfect.

Ingrid: What does care mean to you?

Rae: To me, care means a lot of things. Care can mean leaving your friend alone because they need some space, or reaching out because you know sometimes they isolate too much. Care can also mean giving yourself basic needs, like water or food, or restraining yourself from spending a lot of money, or reaching out to others because it’s going to help you later on. 

Onelson: Care is such a broad term that it's hard to describe precisely what care means to me.  However, if I wanted to state it in bullet points, I’d say care is a representation of how we interact with one another. There are many ways to go about it, and care doesn’t necessarily mean helping one another—care could also mean helping yourself, or selfishness, putting our needs before others. However, when our needs intertwine with those we care about, the sort of joy and happiness you get from that is practically indescribable. It fills you up inside so much that you want to care for people that you've never even met before, and sooner or later you're in the headline of a newspaper for helping the people that most people would shy away from, or even ignore. That's the type of person I want to be.

Ingrid: What do you think is possible when we connect our needs with care?

Rae: I think when we connect our needs with care, we end up being a lot more conscious with our decisions about self care and care for others. When you’re thinking about self care, your first reaction might be “skincare” or “go shopping.” But when you start thinking about what you need right now, your acts of self care might end up looking more like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, calling your mom (or not calling your mom). 

Ingrid Raphael is an interdisciplinary artist working in film, education, fiber + flora, and collective imagination. She has taught at primarily after-school and museum art programs for black and brown youth and teens photography, filmmaking, studio art, and collective imaginings; and has continued to teach and facilitate artmaking during the pandemic with a focus on accessibility and digital convenings. They also co-run the nomadic microcinema NO EVIL EYE and, GRID ZINE: a collection of stories and artworks of black and brown diaspora living in the U.S.