Travel is an amazing vehicle to discover new people, places and things, as evidenced today when I met “Tal” in Croatia and fell in love with this “True Love” sticker that she created. Our bus-train commute from Zagreb to Split provided the opportunity to meet but when she shared her creation, I was instantly curious to know more. Tal (who wishes to be called only by her first name) is a Berlin artist, bike mechanic and community activist with a passion to “change the world!” With a heart for refugees (especially women), at-risk youth and other minorities, Tal generously shares her talents to the underserved in the local community; a unique combination of creativity, open and authentic communication, and heaps of artistic and applied mechanical skills (Tal built her bike from spare parts).
Tal identifies as Jewish and queer which fires a passion to help other minority individuals affirm who they are as a person rather than by the color of their skin, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation. She teaches workshops on topics such as bike repair, up-cycling (repurposing used parts into usable and functional accessories), offering workshops in graffiti, street art, stop-motion animation and puppet theater. Her joy is palpable as she observes how the transfer of skills result in a sense of empowerment, increased confidence and greater self-reliance among her students.
“I have the urge to do something to make a difference in the world … I am aware of how difficult it is to be a minority, how things need to change and what support other minorities may need.” Tal explains that as she works with youngsters, shares her skills and develops a positive relationship with them, the chances are good they will be more inclined to respect and support other minorities they encounter in life.
One 9-year old Sinti Roma (aka, “gypsy”) boy accustomed to hiding his identity in his multinational but highly-biased Berlin neighborhood (for fear of being bullied), echoed the words he had heard Tal use to affirm her own identity. Tal witnessed the event when some children challenged the young boy’s ethnicity (which would inform their view of his social rank). “What are you? Are you Turkish? Arab? – What are you?” The young boy stood tall as he retorted with Tal’s words, “I am human.” The matter-of-fact manner of his response served to shift a paradigm of differences to one of unity and commonality. The conversation moved seamlessly and naturally onto the next, unrelated topic. As Tal’s story culminated with this timid-turned-brave boy redirecting peer bias, Tal expressed great joy and pride, “I smiled for a month!”
If you would like to view or purchase Tal’s artwork, you can find more information online at Cool Tool Facebook page.