Peace Am I Diversity Mindfulness Yoga Art Series
The seed for Peace Am I Mindful Diversity Art series was planted almost 6 years ago, when I saw there was a lot of discrimination in the school system, which left black and brown children traumatized and feeling less than special. As a Clinical Mental Health Counselor in the Asheville North Carolina school system, I tried to do things to help them and other kids, and that included creating and starting an 8 week long mindfulness course for the kids. One problem I encountered, there were no fun quirky images of children of color. I was frustrated and wanted someone to create them. Almost three years on, I still did not see the images I wanted to see, and decided to create them myself. The idea felt crazy, as I was not a trained artist, but I plucked up the courage. At first I painted one image and thought that was it, but the images just kept on coming to my mind, until I ended up with an initial twenty. I kept on painting because I wanted thousands and thousands kids of colors and all kids to see the image and know they are loved, The character is based on my daughter and all the things that make her feel happy. Unbeknownst to me, an Acquisition Editor from North Atlantic Books was following my paintings, and the rest is history. The first part of the Peace Am I series became the basis of the image and stories of my children yoga and mindfulness book My Heart Flies Open,. published by North Atlantic Books, September 2021. Distributed by Penguin Random House.
I have finished a second part of the Peace Am I series, which depicts a child in their Happy Place. Each painting for this second part is known as I Am Here. It is my dream that that this second part of the Peace Am I series, also gets published as a children's book. I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to share these therapeutic image with hundreds of kids in the Asheville City and Buncombe County School System, as an Artist in Residence for Asheville City school's TAPAS program. I really enjoy teachig kids how to paint their own mindfulness images, based on my work. As they engage in this artistic process, they are guided through their internal emotional landscape through art, breath and movement.
I have also been doing lots of book readings for the kids of Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County schools, and have been so chuffed at how much the images have inspired them. As I go to the schools, I have been saddened at how disconnected many of the kids seem. The toll of the year of COVID lockdown and the racial violence of the last few years have really taken its toll on many of the kids, especially the children of color, but not just these children.
On one of my school book reading and art visits I was heart broken to notice that 90 percent of the chidden of color present were so disassociated and depressed. One boy said to me, "I feel depressed all the time". When he went to do his art he drew a big dark cloud called, "darkness". I asked him what does it mean to him. He said, "My whole life feels like that." I asked him, "what would you like to feel?" He said, "I would like to feel love". I said, "you can do an I Am Love art piece." He looked at me with big sad eyes and said, "the problem is no one loves me. I have never experienced love." My heart broke. What was really beautiful was all the children, including the boy that I mentioned above, said they loved how the breathing, yoga and story made them feel and one very bright African American boy shouted out, "this was some sic stuff. This was some good stuff, and those pictures are sic. I loved it! Thank you Ms. Omi, your sic!". I burst out laughing and gave him a big hug..........Oh it was also a great moment when Penguin Random House featured the front cover of My Heart Flies Open, on their Children's Fall 2021 Catalogue.