The purpose of the various Dragon Projects is to bear witness to violence against people of color, to visibly connect the incidents (it’s so easy for people to think it was just one unfortunate circumstance), and to honor and memorialize those in the last 20 years who have lost their lives because of racism. It is modeled after The Clothesline Project which was created in 1990 to bear witness to violence against women. When George Floyd was killed, or Freddie Gray or Michael Brown, there is intense, widespread outrage and mass protests but then things die down until the next murder. The Dragon Projects connects these isolated events, it touches people’s hearts, and brings awareness that the violence is part of a system of oppression and white supremacy.
There are three distinct Dragons.
1. The Dragon Line Project is designed to be accessible; very easy to make, to reproduce, and display. (At the bottom of the page is a pdf with all the information that can be printed or used in whatever way is desired).
2. The Dragon Panel Project, was the first Dragon and
3. The Dragon of Many Colors which is about “ordinary” People of Color who did extraordinary things.
Click below to see or print the brochure:
History and Purpose
The purpose of the original Dragon Panel Project is to bear witness to violence against people of color. It is similar to the Clothesline Project which was also created by Rachel Carey-Harper to bring awareness to violence against women. The Dragon Panel Project grew out of a “Vigil for Victims of Hate Crimes: Holding in the Light Those who Suffer Vicious Human Rights Violations” initiated by James Varner at New England Yearly Meeting in 2013 and sponsored by Barnstable Friends Meeting. For that event, Rachel creating two panels on black foam core that named Trayvon Martin and James Bird. The following year she added a panel for Michael Brown.
Soon after this, Rachel created a dragon by adding more panels and a dragon head and tail — and the Dragon Panel Project was birthed.
The Dragon continued to grow and in 2018 inspiration came to Rachel to design a companion piece to celebrate “ordinary” people of color who’ve done extraordinary things and the Dragon of Many Colors was created.
As every day more and more people of color are being killed, the Dragon Panel Project kept expanding yet it was too big and cumbersome to be useful to other groups. Rachel kept thinking about ways she could make it more relevant, more accessible. While thinking about how the Clothesline Project was sucessful in February of 2023, she re-visioned the Dragon Panel Project into the Dragon-Line Project and a new Dragon was born.
Why a Dragon?
Dragons are symbols. Often they are feared, associated with power, will do whatever it takes to protect what is thiers and are not afraid to express anger.
Fear is pervasive in violence against people of color which is depicted in the Project. On the surface is the irrational white fear — of males of color manifested in various ways such as clutching the pocketbook at the sight of a black man or the exaggerated fear of women of color’s anger.
This masks the real fear which is under the surface, a fear of losing white privilege, supremacy and dominancy. Meanwhile, people of color carry true, rational fear because a simple incident, a tail light being out, can lead to death. Violence against people of color is dangerous for everyone as it tears the fabric of community. Meanwhile, the companion piece, the Dragon of many colors, conveys what can be made manifest when fear is overcome and lives are not cut short.
Dragons symbolize that we are not powerless, that we can make a choice. They are a way to indicate that we care and will use the power we have to protect people. They tell us that its okay to express anger.
We all are capable of healing, growth, and change. Together, fearlessly we can build a better and truly loving, peaceful and just world. ~rch
How to Make a Dragon
Do you feel it important to remember the continuing violence against people of color?
Do you want to honor a person of color killed with race as a likely factor.
Is there a person of color whose death touched your heart?
How to make a Dragon-Line Project
Get pieces of foam core or cardboard. It’s nice if they are about the same size. We cut a 20” by 30” piece of foam core in half, but you can do whatever works for you.
Print out the material you want, including any headings, and paste it on the panels. Or you can hand write or add designs of your choice.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way — follow your light.
Make it your own!
~Make a head and tail, attach them to a Clothesline with clothespins. Dragons can be displayed almost anywhere.
How to make a Dragon Panel Project
~Make a black and white panel. (FYI, when making our panels, we intentionally try not to focus on how they were killed or the murderer/s. Rather we give attention to how the individual lived their life, so full of potential that was snuffed out. We also connect one victim to the other by listing the locations as “From ___ To ___”)
Do you want to honor a person of color who is not well known and who did
~Make a multi-colored panel for them!
Anyone can do a Project!
All you need are foam core panels and a
little imagination. There is no “right” or “wrong”
way — follow your light. Make it your own!
~Make a head and tail, attach them all together with “velcro”, TA – DA!
Dragons can be displayed almost anywhere and you can easily join your Dragon with others. Let us know if/when your Dragon is born.
Hope is not a requirement, in fact, it can be soporific. Change happens with or without hope, as long as people keep fighting, refusing to be silent or docile. In 1990 there were the most women ever in Congress at 32 and the most Blacks at 22. In 2020 there are 141 women and 122 POC. Change happens.
“Someday, every child born into this world will be guaranteed an entire life completely safe from rape, from incest, from violence. Someday every child born into this world will be guaranteed an entire life completely free of racist and sexist discrimination. Someday every child born into this world will be guaranteed an entire life of respect, dignity, and influence.
When this occurs. we will have changed human mentality so profoundly that all violence will be able to be eliminated. I believe that this is our future. People all over the globe are starting to realize just how powerful we truly are. We are realizing our strength, courage, and intelligence. We are realizing our incredible potential. !!We will no longer be silent. We will no longer be docile. We are the agents of change!! We can, and we will create a violence-free earth by opening the power that is inherent in each of us to change tomorrow.
I am simply an ordinary woman, yet I feel confident in making this promise to you because I believe that together we can unlock the knowledge, skill, and enthusiasm within each of us and collectively bring the world back into balance. A balanced world in which everyone’s wisdom, vision, and energy have equal authority and power.” ~rch
“Here Be Dragons”
from The Price of the Ticket by James Baldwin (1985)
“All countries or groups make of their trials a legend or, as in the case of Europe, a dubious romance called ‘history.’ But no other country has ever made so successful and glamorous a romance out of genocide and slavery; therefore, perhaps the word I am searching for is not idea but ideal.
The American ideal, then, of sexuality appears to be rooted in the American ideal of masculinity. This ideal has created cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys, punks and studs, tough guys and softies, butch and faggot, black and white.” …
“Ancient maps of the world — when the world was flat — inform us, concerning that void where America was waiting to be discovered, HERE BE DRAGONS. Dragons may not have been here then, but they are certainly here now, breathing fire, belching smoke; or, to be less literary and biblical about it, attempting to intimidate the mores, morals, and morality of this particular and peculiar time and place…. And it can be said that the monumental struggles being waged in our time and not only in this place resemble, in awesome ways, the ancient struggle between those who insisted that the world was flat and those who apprehended that it was round.”
TAGS: [Collective Action]