The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal as catalyst for artistic expression? While most viewed the accounts of victimization with outrage and then returned to their lives, at least one individual experienced a true cathartic awakening. Fueled by the rage she experienced in response to the ironic brutality and inhumanity suffered at the hands of a few "liberators," Terri Cartwright was called to create--in words, quilts, and illustrations--her unique perspectives on a dual history.
These two histories, our current wartime experiences and the African-American struggle, converge in the author's understanding of Abu Ghraib as both a mirror for her self-exploration and a vehicle that transported her back to another time, when the conflict was in Vietnam. As history has regretfully repeated itself, the sentiments that the former and present wars engender strongly parallel each other.
As a black woman in America, Terri Cartwright's treatment of war occurs almost as a secondary theme, at times eclipsed by the realities of her experience as a survivor of slavery's legacy. The author's focus on the treatment of "blackness," even against the emotional backdrop of war, was shared by other Americans, particularly during the Vietnam era when many black Americans were challenged about their reluctance to support the denouncement of foreign regimes through military action. When the poet turns her attention to matters of persisting social ills in this country, the central body of her verse emerges as a distinct, overarching manifesto about the perils of being black in this new millennium existence--a time when children are taught that matters of race hold little relevance in the dynamic interplay of life.
This poetic discourse on humanity ends with a calming and prophetic plea for redemption--a rebirth that must be spurred by the efforts of all of the world's citizens. As Terri urged during a recent discussion of the book's conclusion, "What we need to do right now is to mend one another."