Saving the World* Through Art and Radical Kindness

Alright, I lied. Saving the world ain’t really on my agenda these days, ya’ll. Being radically kind, helping others heal through art, and providing peer support, however, is something that will forever be on my to-do list.

I got a confession: I love people. I know. Gross, right? Who does that?

It took me a while to get to that point, though. Growing up, I was the fat, weird, and somehow-always-out-of-place kid in class. I was bullied. A lot. I still remember some of the nicknames I was given: “African booty scratcher” for my dark skin, “ham hock” because of my thick thighs, and “gap-toothed beaver” because I dared to smile in a world that demands pearly-white perfection. The bullying, on top of various other traumas I endured, didn’t always give me a reason to like people. So I didn’t, for a very long time. People fucking suck sometimes.

Here is the thing about one’s true nature, though; it always eventually comes to light. At my core, I’ve always been a loving person; in spite of all the ugliness I’ve had to endure, I continue to believe that life can be a beautiful thing. Art has definitely helped to redefine what beauty means to me. It’s something that transcends physicality along with capitalism and the ways in which it tries to convince us that true beauty is only a purchase away. It has helped me heal, speak, and love as freely as I am able to now. Art is freedom.

Using art as a modality of healing helped me to realize that the hurt inflicted onto me by others was merely an extension of their own. And don’t get me wrong – understanding ≠ justification. But understanding why people inflict harm helped me heal so that I wouldn’t perpetuate that same harm onto others.

Seventh grade detty would have never thought that I’d be so happy to be me, ya’ll. So happy to be blessed with the strength to be soft, to be sensitive, to be infinitely vulnerable, to be radically kind. I am proud that my entire being is soft, mushy, sappy, and sentimental. I am proud of how easily I love, how easily I care, how easily I extend empathy and compassion to those around me. Art did this for me, and one of the ways I am extending this gift is through peer support. Expressive Arts, made possible through 501(c)3 Peer Support Space, is a peer-led digital gathering that provided me with a way to marry my passion for art and helping others.

Expressive Arts is intended to be a comfortable and affirming space for folks to express themselves artistically, whatever that means for them in the moment. It is also a space created with the understanding that everyone is an artist in their own right and that we all utilize creativity to navigate the world everyday. I made this group in honor of the softest parts of me. The parts I feared would be crushed by this world, by expectations that were not my own. In honor of little me, who was bullied, and my peers who live with the same physical, mental, and emotional wounds that I do. Art gives us a way to heal together.

So yeah, maybe I can’t save the world, but by helping to create a universe where folks of all types – the fat, the queer, the trans, the thick-thighed, the dark-skinned, gap-toothed – I am able to help others feel seen, heard, and liberated.

detty (they/them) is for sure an alien, but can also be described as a black, non-binary & mentally ill artist, poet, mental health advocate, and peer supporter based in South Florida. They are the creator of Expressive Arts, a peer-led digital gathering that connects artists with both themselves and each other. In their own practice, detty creates art centering liberation, self-expression, and unmasking as an autistic HSP. Follow them on Instagram at @detty.jpg and on the Expressive Arts IG at @expressiveartsgroup.