Robert Shetterly: An American Who Tells the Truth,the latest entry into the Maine Masters series has just launched its fundraising campaign with a new working title. Shetterly and filmmaker Richard Kane, director of the UMVA Maine Masters Project, returned from Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship at the end of last year where all 238 portraits were exhibited for the first time. Kane was funded to travel with Shetterly and document several of the events, short clips of which can be seen on the home page of this website:
In one scene, civil rights and political activist Bill Ayers says: “These portraits taken together represent citizens of a country that does not yet exist…what you have is Rob mapping that country…he’s the cartographer of a country that doesn’t yet exist.”
They have also launched a fundraising portal at https://bit.ly/2DUUnhK.
In recent days Shetterly’s project has taken on a greater urgency – 22-year old Kelsey Juliana, and twenty youths ages 10-20, have brought suit against the U.S. Government, claiming that its inaction to address climate change has failed to protect the public trust.
Future scenes planned will include Shetterly and a passionate Juliana addressing the crowd at the Eugene, Oregon, District Courthouse steps: “The government knowingly violated our future generation’s fundamental right to inherit a stable and survivable planet.”
To hear her words ringing gives us hope. The film hopes to follow the unfolding of events of the trial that has twice been judged to move forward by the U.S. Supreme Court.
So what is it that motivates this activist artist?
“It is the courage,“ Shetterly says, “of people to demand their rights that is more essential to democracy than even voting rights. Helen Keller understood that when she said:
…There are no such things as divine, immutable, or inalienable rights. Rights are things we get when we are strong enough to make good our claim on them.
And Frederick Douglass, when he said:
Find out what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong that will be imposed on them.
This is the principle of courage that runs through the struggle against slavery, against racism, for women’s rights, for workers’ rights, for indigenous rights, against child labor, for gender rights, for environmental rights.
It is our common humanity, our common decency, that will bring us together to fight for our planet.
This film will bring new and wider attention to the importance of speaking truth to power, to have the courage to build a society where all people are respected, where hatred is rejected, where embracing diversity is the source of our strength.
Feature image at top: Robert Shetterly painting Bayard Rustin