What can happen when we shift our perspective?
Sometimes, all it takes is one story of kindness to make the world seem like a less cold, uncaring place. At Upworthy, we know that now more than ever, it’s vital to highlight the goodness of humanity so that we are reminded of what’s possible. That’s why when we heard about an artist in Buffalo, New York, who used creativity to shift perspectives in a unique and thought-provoking way, we knew we had to share.
Local news outlet WKBW TV first reported the work of social practice artist Saira Siddiqui, who returned to her home city of Buffalo in 2019 to create the Peace Dots Project. The campaign encourages people to submit stories of “random acts of kindness, peace offerings, conflict resolution, or any action that creates hope and makes a positive impact, whether it be an act personally experienced or one witnessed from afar.” These stories get collected and become "peace dots" that go up on a map of the city, replacing the dots that typically only track crime scenes.
"It allows people to think about positive framing, rather than thinking about the traditional negative framing. That's so prevalent right now,” Siddiqui told WKBW.
Many refer to Buffalo as the “City of Good Neighbors." This was a nickname earned because of Buffalo’s history of welcoming immigrant and migrant communities and their diverse array of cultures. However, the noble label has come into question in recent years, especially because some neighborhoods aren’t so good for all their neighbors. White homeownership is more than double that of Blacks and Hispanics, according to a study in 2018. That same study showed that, on average, white households also had around double the annual income of Black and Latino ones. In 2021, an article by professors Timothy F. Murphy and Henry Louis Taylor Jr. revealed that Black Buffalonians are far more likely to have serious, chronic (yet preventable) diseases than whites who lived in the area.
It’s staggering statistics like this that inspired Siddiqui to imagine a different narrative. She told WKBW, "We are always mapping data. We are taking hard data about crime, health and wealth disparities. One day, I thought, 'why are we mapping these disparities? Where are all the peace dots at?'"
Though the project started in the Buffalo area, submissions are accepted from around the globe. And on the Peace Dots Project's website, you’ll see a map filled with peace dots from many different areas. Stories are being collected through 2022.
Submitting your own story is pretty simple. The only information that’s mandatory is the random act of kindness or peace offering. Everything else—name, location, date—is completely optional. There’s even a spot where folks can get a bit creative and reflect on what color and emotion comes to mind when thinking about the memory.
Here are a few examples from the project’s Instagram page:
Capturing these day-to-day moments helps communities come together to actively change negative narratives. The stories we share are important—they help shape our identity. Through art and interaction, Siddiqui has found an inspiring way to remind people of the power they have, simply by focusing on positivity.