Voices of Youth: Art about generational trauma and healing in BIPOC communities

This article is part of Concentrate's Voices of Youth series, which features content created by Washtenaw County youth in partnership with Concentrate mentors, as well as feature stories by adult writers that examine issues of importance to local youth. In this installment, student Elleona Kristine shares a painting she made about generational trauma and healing in BIPOC communities.

Artist's statement: I'm Elleona Kristine and this piece, named "I didn't want to self-destruct," is about generational trauma within BIPOC communities. 

I have created two paintings that come together as one. The left side has a darker and chaotic theme to it. It has symbols for death, racism, substance abuse, and more. I wanted to convey the feeling of a bad memory or even a nightmare. I believe that unhealed trauma from the past is like a recurring nightmare. The more you try to ignore it, it just keeps coming back more vividly. Past trauma has held BIPOC communities back from progressing forward and it has held households hostage. For example, slavery, racism, and the crack epidemic still have a huge impact today. 

The left half of "I didn't want to self destruct" by Elleona Kristine.
The right side is simpler and brighter. It is more free to interpret. However there is a sobriety coin for 12 months to show healing over time. The right painting is showing healing, growth, and unity. I chose to use gold because gold is a color of achievement. 

The right half of "I didn't want to self destruct" by Elleona Kristine.
The name of the piece is inspired by Kendrick Lamar, who often raps about trauma within the Black community. I wanted the name to be applied to both paintings separately or as a whole. For example, "I didn't want to self-destruct anymore so I got sober" or "I didn't want to self-destruct but I did" or "I didn't want to self-destruct but I did and now I'm healing." However, the name is free to interpret. 

In my personal life, generational trauma has withheld important relationships from me and held me back. That's why as a community we need to recognize trauma within our own households and find a way to heal so we can all move forward. 

Elleona Kristine is a 10th grader at Arbor Preparatory High School. She lives in Ypsilanti Township. Concentrate staffer Lynne Settles served as her mentor on this project.

To learn more about Concentrate's Voices of Youth project and read other installments in the series, click here.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.