'Create Justice:' A call to action

It seemed like everyone united together in Charlottesville, the young and the old, for International Justice Mission’s latest event: “Create: Justice” Saturday. The multi-medium artistic showcase, housed in the creative Christian community Eunoia space in The Garden building, powerfully reflected the spirit of the group’s goal.

“IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression,” said third-year College student Elizabeth Stewart, the group’s president

One of the strongest performances came from University alumna Michelle Opperman, who hails from South Africa and whose vivacious personality hid any trace of nerves she mentioned before the show.

Her personal narrative was mind-blowing, following her trials as an innocent, unsuspecting young girl while doing mission work in Kentucky and being inappropriately hit on by the married man whose family she was helping. Despite her strong, unwavering voice, I could not help but think of all the young women still in similarly dire situations. The performance made oppressive and abusive situations with no way out seem far more prevalent than we are comfortable admitting.

Though there were an array of impressive, heartfelt performances, including works by University alumni Bernard Hankins and Daniel Garner, and Charlottesville native Matthew McAllister, stage performance was not the only art form present. The event planners had also organized an entire exhibit exploring the idea of justice that included paintings, photographs and other visual art.

One highlight was Cristina Rutkowski’s beautiful piece entitled “Forget me not: Reflection/ Reaction.” The work includes two side-by-side mirrors with faces inked in on the glass. This display allowed the viewer to see themselves in the mirror, while superimposing the faces — and therefore the emotional trauma — of oppressed girls.

Though it might seem easy to leave the event sad and downtrodden; it instead served as a call for action — a call to fight against injustice, a call to take a stand and join the University community in changing the world.

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