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The “S” Stands For Hope

Written by G Streat 

This thing called blackness is a lot to unpack. Defining it is like one of those never-ending “who’s your top 5” discussions. Y’all can handle that on your own time. What we do need to discuss is mental health. In recent years, we as a community have begun to open the dialogue around mental health, but we can, we must, do better. 

We’ll spare you the clichés about pain. There will be nothing from us here about silver linings, transformation or optimism. At the moment, that seems trite and unnecessary. Acknowledgement, on the other hand seem very apropos.

Pristina Jan Jackson’s story is nothing short of exceptional. The fact that stories like hers are not uncommon is altogether heartbreaking. The idea of family is simple. The reality, however, not so much. As amalgams of our past, we are all walking, talking stories-experiences rather, that shape our identities and our norms. Assuming “normal” does actually exist, it would be most accurate to describe Pristina’s household norm as a nightmare. 

As she goes into her past, Pristina sheds light on the inspiration for her piece entitled, A Mother’s Love. “Growing up in a very dysfunctional home full of abuse, I didn’t know that my mother loved me. I didn’t realize how much that influences us in our confidence. I had a breakthrough at church about my mother. In her way, how she was taught what love was, she did love me.”

Calling attention to the circular movement around the outer portion of the piece, Pristina notes, “the hair kind of flows down to the cradle of the hands because of unconditional love. It was a very transitional piece for me, nothing like I’ve ever done.”

That piece was memorable for another reason too. In addition to the shift which occurred regarding Pristina’s mother, A Mother’s Love was the first time that something clicked. “Damn, I can draw!” She remembers realizing that it was her hand that brought this piece to life. 

Around that time, a new sense of self-awareness flourished within Pristina when she had a revelation about her motivation to draw. “I used to do it for the same reason that people dress inappropriately, to get attention. I got attention, but it made me feel some kind of way inside, like it wasn’t real. After I did that drawing, I embraced the fact that it was real, that I do have some kind of God given talent.”

Pristina does paint, but it seems as though she’s partial to pencil and the freedom that shading gives her. It’s worth noting that the sense of freedom Pristina finds within her work did not come easy. At the age of 47, she admits that she’s just now embracing her artistic gifts.

“I learned that you know sometimes we don’t feel like doing things, but feelings lie. You have to work through those feelings until your mind gets to a point where you’re enjoying what you’re doing. Sometimes I’m not necessarily enjoying the art, but I’m just trying to get to another spot.”

The weight of perpetual self-deprecation. The joy of self-actualization. In between lays a peculiar kind of purgatory, thick with conflicting thoughts and charged emotions. How one makes their way through such a convoluted mental landscape, we’ve got no good answer for that one.

Reflecting on her path, Pristina proclaims that, “you don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Years of therapy while embracing her spirituality helps Pristina to be transparent with us. She’s very candid about her past and her pain. 

“As a culture, we have a tendency to hide mental illness. I’m excited because I’m starting to see on social media that black people are starting to encourage and embrace the issue of mental illness. We’ve had to be strong when we don’t feel strong.” 

The Sister’s Keeper, is another piece born of Pristina’s past. “I used to be abused by three of my four brothers. The one brother who never abused me, I used to call him Superman. When I was nine or ten years old, I would imagine myself really, really small and in my mind, he would fly by while these things were happening to me and he would take me away.” 

Still in awe of Pristina and her ability to overcome, she leaves us with this, “I like that pain can transfer, you know what I mean? It’s not just situational for me, but people are able to look at my work and get their own impression.”

Pristina, thank you for sharing your pain, your process and the moments of peace you attain through each piece you make. We are truly grateful for your openness and humbled by your beautiful spirit.

It is our sincerest wish that you find peace, love and happiness as you continue to develop as an artist. 


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