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"The Question"—Art Book Project

May 30, 2021
View of art book showing eco-dyed cover, and handmade clasp

Image: Front view of The Question, showing the handmade clasp and eco-dyed paper cover.

Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society (2021)
Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Allen

Have you ever fielded a question so odd that you were rendered speechless? About 25 years ago I was driving to the local mall for a shopping trip with my sister-in-law. We were almost there when out of the blue she springs this on me: “So Deb, why are you for the Blacks?” Truly aghast, I stuttered and sputtered some form of answer out, but can now only really remember the strange unsettled feeling I had after the experience.

Fast forward to May 2020 and the murder of George Floyd. Emotions that came to the surface roiled but had nowhere to go so they simmered. That August, my husband and I were invited to join a local Tucson group called Pillars and Bridges, initiated after the Floyd murder, whose primary aim was to improve communication between the citizens and Tucson Police Department and prevent anything similar happening in Tucson. Joining this group was one of the few bright spots during the 2020-2021 pandemic pandemonium.

Then in October, we had the occasion to make a 6300 mile meandering trip with our travel trailer, nicknamed “the Mini.” Besides visiting family and friends, we intentionally included a stop in Alabama to visit Montgomery and Selma to see the Civil Rights sites. Upon completion of self-guided walking tours of each city, we found ourselves emotionally drained. The true history of our country hit us squarely in the face and we set a goal of learning more by enrolling in the Wilmette Institute course called Anti-Black Racism in the US.

The question mentioned above dogged me over the years until recently, after months of reading books on racism and having conversations with friends on the topic. After prayers for guidance and thoughtful meditation, I picked up paper and pen and wrote the answer as a stream of consciousness, using that stream as the text for my artist book, The Question, which I chose to submit as my final project after the Wilmette Institute course.

After hundreds of years, the epidemic and crisis of racism in the US must end. Shoghi Effendi’s words and exhortations about this most vital and challenging issue must continue to echo and resonate within us, moving us to not only pray for inspiration but also motivate us toward bold action whenever and wherever we can. As Bahá’ís we have the key—now let’s unlock the door.



Deb Hilbert

With life as a dietitan behind me, I've become an artist in retired life, specializing in making artist books and handmade paper. My works tend toward the serious and include books about progressive revelation, migration, materialism, race issues, and the twists and turns that lead us toward death, issues that affect me deeply. On a lighter note, I'm a happy desert dweller and have found Tucson, AZ, to have everything that feeds my soul - the nature of the Sonoran Desert and mountain peaks, a vibrant art and music scene, and a cohort of artist friends that couldn't be more supportive. I am richly blessed!

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