+
upworthy
Most Shared

Kwadwo was painting a tribute to victims of police brutality. Then he almost became one.

Kwadwo Adae is more than just a painter — he's a community builder (and impeccable dresser).

For the last decade, Kwadwo (pronounced "K’way-jo") has run Adae Fine Art Academy in New Haven, Connecticut's historic Ninth Square, where he teaches art to children, teens, and adults.

But not everyone can make it to the classroom. So Kwadwo brings his art to them, taking his talents on the road in a mobile studio that visits mental health clinics and assisted living centers, creating communities and helping people heal through artistic expression.


He also paints murals, chatting with customers at his local bakery as he adds another flourish to the wall, or traveling across the world to create collaborative community pieces with underprivileged children.

"Art is a really powerful thing, and I don't think our society places enough value on what art can do," he told Upworthy. "There's the healing factor that's inherent in an artistic passion, and you cannot underestimate its power."

Kwadwo (in the rear, with that lovely paisley button-up) with students from Anjanisain Paryavaran Vidyalaya School in the Himalayas, where he travelled to help them make a mural on their school. All photos by Kwadwo Adae, used with permission.

In the summer of 2014, Kwadwo began to paint an image of Lady Justice posed with her iconic swords and scale.

A friend volunteered to model for him. He'd been doing a series of nude studies but was looking for a different way to challenge himself, rather than just painting a figure. A deity, perhaps, or some mythological figure...

It was serendipity that they settled on depicting her as Lady Justice.

A few weeks later, Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

In the aftermath, Kwadwo got involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, participating in peaceful demonstrations from New Haven to New York. But his painting fell to the wayside, languishing unfinished in his studio.

Kwadwo had wanted his Lady Justice to be different, something otherworldly and transcendent and righteous and frightening and recognizable, but somehow still inhuman — because justice, as he understood it, was not just reserved for humans.

But with each successive tragedy, he found himself questioning what, exactly, his Lady Justice stood for. "I was appalled and shocked and had this feeling about what justice means for me, as a black man living in this society. And I really struggled with that," he said.

Kwadwo and his in-process Lady Justice painting.

Every time another black American was slain, he would bring the painting back out, immortalizing their names on the back of the canvas.

"As the year passed and more and more men and women of color were executed by police, I would be filled [with] unhealthy levels of sadness, anger, and despair. The only constructive place to put these emotions was in this depiction of Lady Justice," he wrote in a Facebook post. "When I can no longer fit another name on the back of this painting, I will officially consider this piece complete."

But the list of names kept getting longer, and his painting began to fill him with disgust.

What started as a tribute now served as a sickening reminder of the terrible injustices that his family and friends dealt with every single day. He hid his Lady Justice in the back of his studio, focusing instead on an abstract series or a sprawling floral print.

At least, until another name was broadcast on the news.

The back canvas of Kwadwo's Lady Justice painting.

And then, on Dec. 18, 2015, he saw the flashing lights in his own rearview mirror.

Kwadwo said he was less than 100 yards from his house, on his way to the studio, when he was pulled over by a plainclothes state trooper, who approached the car with his weapon drawn.



His frightened mind flashed through every possible scenario, but there was one thought in particular that wouldn't leave his mind:

"Who would be the one to write my name in memoriam on the back of my own painting?"

Kwadwo wasn't killed. But he was taken into custody.

His alleged crime? Running a stop sign, and crossing the double yellow lines into traffic.

Although he was detained, the police released Kwadwo later that day, with a court date on Dec. 30.

The police report made sure to note Kwadwo's "fair/poor" attitude.

There was no mention of a weapon being drawn.

"When you are a black man in these United States, getting pulled over and seeing a gun drawn is analogous to having a near death experience. I am truly grateful to have a court date instead of a death certificate today," Kwadwo wrote.

12 days later, Kwadwo appeared in New Haven's Superior Court — and his neglected Lady Justice was finally complete.

He could have spent the interim days stewing in his anger or depression. But Kwadwo found a better way to channel his energy, and he committed himself to putting the finishing touches on the painting.

His Lady Justice was completed on the morning of his trial.

Kwadwo showed up in court and told his own side of the story — which stood in stark contrast to the officer's report. The case was ultimately thrown out and expunged from his record in exchange for a $25 donation to the Crime Victims Fund.

I've been spending so much time staring deeply into her blindness as of late; personally and patiently awaiting her eyes upon me in judgement. Although she is nearly complete in one sense, I shall be working on her in perpetuity. My dearest Lady Justice. #ladyjustice #lady #justice #art #painting #artist #artistlife #oilpainting #law #lawyer #swords #shields #scales #judge #jury #executioner #ladyinjustice #blind #blindfolded #visualart #antiviolence #policebrutality #blacklivesmatter #artstudio #painter
A photo posted by Kwadwo Adae (@kwadwo.adae) on

With his harrowing encounter behind him, Kwadwo is feeling freshly inspired as the new year begins — and his positive energy is infectious.

"I'm taking the emotional damage of the experience and trying to translate it into my art," he told me a week after his court date.

He's back to taking aikido classes again after an injury put him on the sidelines for the year. He points out the aikido swords in the hands of his Kali-esque painting and explains how aikido is about taking the aggressive force of your attacker and using that energy to redirect and end the conflict.

He's also been meditating. Sometimes in those quiet moments, Kwadwo's mind wanders to the man who arrested him that day. But there is no vengeance or vitriol in his thoughts — just forgiveness. "We're all trying to make the world a better place," Kwadwo says. "Even the cop who pulled me over is trying to make the world a better place in his own way. We're all trying to do our best. We just need to get better at empathizing with other people."

Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.


The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

time, science, frames per second, bounced light

The amazing camera.

Photo from YouTube video.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, "If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years."


In the video below, you'll see experimental footage of light photons traveling 600-million-miles-per-hour through water.

It's impossible to directly record light so the camera takes millions of scans to recreate each image. The process has been called femto-photography and according to Andrea Velten, a researcher involved with the project, "There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

(H/T Curiosity)


This article originally appeared on 09.08.17

Health

Her mother doesn't get why she's depressed. So she explains the best way she knows how.

Sabrina Benaim eloquently describes what it's like to be depressed.

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother."

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother" is pretty powerful on its own.

But, in it, her mother exhibits some of the most common misconceptions about depression, and I'd like to point out three of them here.

Misconception #1: Depression is triggered by a single event or series of traumatic events.

empathy, human condition, humanity

Depression isn’t just over sleeping.

Most people think depression is triggered by a traumatic event: a loved one dying, a job loss, a national tragedy, some THING. The truth is that depression sometimes just appears out of nowhere. So when you think that a friend or loved one is just in an extended bad mood, reconsider. They could be suffering from depression.

Misconception #2: People with depression are only sad.

family, parents, mom, anxiety

The obligation of anxiety.

Most people who have never experienced depression think depression is just an overwhelming sadness. In reality, depression is a complex set of feelings and physical changes in the body. People who suffer from depression are sad, yes, but they can also be anxious, worried, apathetic, and tense, among other things.

Misconception #3: You can snap out of it.

button poetry, medical condition, biological factors

Making fun plans not wanting to have fun.

The thing with depression is that it's a medical condition that affects your brain chemistry. It has to do with environmental or biological factors first and foremost. Sabrina's mother seems to think that if her daughter would only go through the motions of being happy that then she would become happy. But that's not the case. Depression is a biological illness that leaks into your state of being.

Think of it this way: If you had a cold, could you just “snap out of it"?

No? Exactly.

empathy, misconceptions of depression, mental health

Mom doesn’t understand.

via Button Poetry/YouTube

These are only three of the misconceptions about depression. If you know somebody suffering from depression, you should take a look at this video here below to learn the best way to talk to them:

This article originally appeared on 11.24.15

Here's how to be 30% more persuasive.

Everybody wants to see themselves in a positive light. That’s the key to understanding Jonah Berger’s simple tactic that makes people 30% more likely to do what you ask. Berger is a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the bestselling author of “Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way.”

Berger explained the technique using a Stanford University study involving preschoolers. The researchers messed up a classroom and made two similar requests to groups of 5-year-olds to help clean up.

One group was asked, "Can you help clean?" The other was asked, “Can you be a helper and clean up?" The kids who were asked if they wanted to be a “helper” were 30% more likely to want to clean the classroom. The children weren’t interested in cleaning but wanted to be known as “helpers.”


Berger calls the reframing of the question as turning actions into identities.

"It comes down to the difference between actions and identities. We all want to see ourselves as smart and competent and intelligent in a variety of different things,” Berger told Big Think. “But rather than describing someone as hardworking, describing them as a hard worker will make that trait seem more persistent and more likely to last. Rather than asking people to lead more, tell them, 'Can you be a leader?' Rather than asking them to innovate, can you ask them to 'Be an innovator'? By turning actions into identities, you can make people a lot more likely to engage in those desired actions.”

Berger says that learning to reframe requests to appeal to people’s identities will make you more persuasive.

“Framing actions as opportunities to claim desired identities will make people more likely to do them,” Berger tells CNBC Make It. “If voting becomes an opportunity to show myself and others that I am a voter, I’m more likely to do it.”

This technique doesn’t just work because people want to see themselves in a positive light. It also works for the opposite. People also want to avoid seeing themselves being portrayed negatively.

“Cheating is bad, but being a cheater is worse. Losing is bad, being a loser is worse,” Berger says.

The same tactic can also be used to persuade ourselves to change our self-concept. Saying you like to cook is one thing, but calling yourself a chef is an identity. “I’m a runner. I’m a straight-A student. We tell little kids, ‘You don’t just read, you’re a reader,’” Berger says. “You do these things because that’s the identity you hold.”

Berger’s work shows how important it is to hone our communication skills. By simply changing one word, we can get people to comply with our requests more effectively. But, as Berger says, words are magic and we have to use thgem skillfully. “We think individual words don’t really matter that much. That’s a mistake,” says Berger. “You could have excellent ideas, but excellent ideas aren’t necessarily going to get people to listen to you.”


This article originally appeared on 2.11.24

Pop Culture

A comic about wearing makeup goes from truthful to weird in 4 panels.

A hilariously truthful (and slightly weird) explanation of the "too much makeup" conundrum.

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

A comic shows the evolution or devolution from with makeup to without.

Even though I don't wear very much makeup, every few days or so SOMEONE...

(friends, family, internet strangers)

...will weigh in on why I "don't need makeup."


Now, I realize this is meant as a compliment, but this comic offers a hilariously truthful (and slightly weird) explanation of the "too much makeup" conundrum.

social norms, social pressure, friendship, self esteem

“Why do you wear so much makeup?"

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

passive aggressive, ego, confidence, beauty

“See, you look pretty without all that makeup on."

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

expectations, beauty products, mascara, lipstick

“Wow you look tired, are you sick?"

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

lizards, face-painting, hobbies, hilarious comic

When I shed my human skin...

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

Not everyone is able to turn into a badass lizard when someone asks about their face-painting hobbies. Don't you kinda wish you could? Just to drive this hilarious comic all the way home, here are four reasons why some women* wear makeup:

*Important side note: Anyone can wear makeup. Not just women. True story.

Four reasons some women* wear makeup:

1. Her cat-eye game is on point.

mascara, eyes, confidence

Her cat-eye game is on point.

Via makeupproject.

2. She has acne or acne scars.

acne, cover up, scarring, medical health

She has acne or acne scars.

Via Carly Humbert.

3. Pink lipstick.

lipstick, beauty products, basics, self-expression

Yes, pink lipstick.

Via Destiny Godley

4. She likes wearing makeup.

appearance, enhancement, creative expression

Happy to be going out and feeling good.

Happy Going Out GIF by Much.

While some people may think putting on makeup is a chore, it can be really fun! For some, makeup is an outlet for creativity and self-expression. For others, it's just a way to feel good about themselves and/or enhance their favorite features.

That's why it feels kinda icky when someone says something along the lines of "You don't need so much makeup!" Now, it's arguable that no one "needs" makeup, but everyone deserves to feel good about the way they look.

For some people, feeling good about their appearance includes wearing makeup. And that's totally OK.


This article originally appeared on 05.28.15

Joy

Adorable 'Haka baby' dance offers a sweet window into Maori culture

Stop what you're doing and let this awesomeness wash over you.

If you've never seen a Maori haka performed, you're missing out.

The Maori are the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, and their language and customs are an integral part of the island nation. One of the most recognizable Maori traditions outside of New Zealand is the haka, a ceremonial dance or challenge usually performed in a group. The haka represents the pride, strength, and unity of a tribe and is characterized by foot-stamping, body slapping, tongue protrusions, and rhythmic chanting.

Haka is performed at weddings as a sign of reverence and respect for the bride and groom and are also frequently seen before sports competitions, such as rugby matches.



The intensity of the haka is the point. It is meant to be a show of strength and elicit a strong response—which makes seeing a tiny toddler learning to do it all the more adorable.

Here's an example of a rugby haka:

Danny Heke, who goes by @focuswithdan on TikTok, shared a video of a baby learning haka and omigosh it is seriously the most adorable thing. When you see most haka, the dancers aren't smiling—their faces are fierce—so this wee one starting off with an infectious grin is just too much. You can see that he's already getting the moves down, facial expressions and all, though.

@focuswithdan When you grow up learning haka! #haka #teachthemyoung #maori #māori #focuswithdan #fyp #foryou #kapahaka ♬ original sound - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

As cute as this video is, it's part of a larger effort by Heke to use his TikTok channel to share and promote Maori culture. His videos cover everything from the Te Reo Maori language to traditional practices to issues of prejudice Maori people face.

Here he briefly goes over the different body parts that make up haka:

@focuswithdan

♬ Ngati - Just2maori

This video explains the purerehua, or bullroarer, which is a Maori instrument that is sometimes used to call rains during a drought.

@focuswithdan Reply to @illumi.is.naughty Some tribes used this to call the rains during drought 🌧 ⛈ #maori #māori #focuswithdan #fyp ♬ Pūrerehua - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

This one shares a demonstration and explanation of the taiaha, a traditional Maori weapon.

@focuswithdan Reply to @shauncalvert Taiaha, one of the most formidable of the Māori Weaponry #taiaha #maori #māori #focuswithdan #fyp #foryou ♬ original sound - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

For another taste of haka, check out this video from a school graduation:

@focuswithdan When your little cuzzy graduates and her school honours her with a haka #maori #māori #haka #focuswithdan #fyp #graduation @its_keshamarley ♬ Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Ruanui - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

Heke even has some fun with the trolls and racists in the comments who try to tell him his culture is dead (what?).

@focuswithdan Credit to you all my AMAZING FOLLOWERS! #focuswithdan #maori #māori #followers #fyp #trolls ♬ original sound - sounds for slomo_bro!

Unfortunately, it's not just ignorant commenters who spew racist bile. A radio interview clip that aired recently called Maori people "genetically predisposed to crime, alcohol, and underperformance," among other terrible things. (The host, a former mayor of Auckland, has been let go for going along with and contributing to the caller's racist narrative.)

@focuswithdan #newzealand radio in 2021 delivering racist commentaries 🤦🏽‍♂️ #māori #maori #focuswithdan #racism DC: @call.me.lettie2.0 ♬ original sound - luna the unicow

That clip highlights why what Heke is sharing is so important. The whole world is enriched when Indigenous people like the Maori have their voices heard and their culture celebrated. The more we learn from each other and our diverse ways of life, the more enjoyable life on Earth will be and the better we'll get at collaborating to confront the challenges we all share.


This article originally appeared on 01.28.21