A Group of Artists is Showing How Words Matter

Catherine Lanser
3 min readJun 7, 2020

As a writer, words are important to me. I usually write quickly, but still choose my words carefully. When I type, my cursor usually doesn’t just go one way. It goes forward and backward as I write and rewrite, making sure to choose the words I really want to say. When I choose the wrong word, I pick another one.

In the wake of the uprisings following George Floyd’s death, words matter more than ever. A group of artists are showing that now in an area hit by destruction.

Last week, following protests in Madison, Wis., windows on some of the businesses along State Street were smashed. State Street runs from the Capitol Building to campus and is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. It is closed to traffic and has seen festivals, fun, and protests for years.

Today the businesses are boarded up with plywood, but it is not as dismal as it may seem. Artists have covered the boards with hope. I was struck by how many used words. These are words of great thinkers like Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, and Martin Luther King Jr. Simple words with difficult concepts were painted too, like Inclusion, Hope, Peace, Justice, and Love.

Also, the names of those who have died appeared again and again: George Floyd, Tony Robinson, Philando Castille, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Miles Hall, Kwame Jones, Sam Dubose, Jamar Clark, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and many more.

The Definitions of the Words We’ve Been Using These Past Weeks

These past few weeks, as people have made their voices known, people have been throwing around words like protest, riot, and looting, saying one word when they may mean another. Or insinuating one thing by using another word. Let’s look at the meanings of these words:

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Catherine Lanser

Narrative nonfiction and memoir. Querying my memoir about my family, told through the lens of brain tumor.