The best thing I could have ever did was go to this rehab call the Shine Center… It was so many men, so I was just nervous and I would just be hushed but I had so much all down inside of me, and…gradually I started talking. I became a team leader over there, the motivation team. I start talking problems that happened that I didn't think that bothered me.
“The Perilous Fight” invites the viewer to experience spaces in which Nicole Edwards lived and worked through the challenges of drug dependency. This piece offers a chronology of Nicole’s journey from addiction through rehabilitation including experiences of incarceration and re-entry during which she drew strength from her religious faith.
Nicole vividly describes rooms and furnishings that capture key moments of this journey. Based on these recollections, I made small scale paper models of these rooms, which I then used as references for these interpretative drawings.
The title draws from a lyric passage from the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner, evoking historical tensions between American ideals and Black realities.
“Bedroom, Gentilly, New Orleans” (top left image)
Nicole lived alone in an apartment in Gentilly when she was using drugs. She isolated herself from friends and family in order to conceal her habit. Nicole recounted keeping her drug paraphernalia in the open on her night stand, the only apparent sign of addiction in her otherwise pristine and newly furnished bedroom. Eventually, recognizing the need for intervention and strengthened by her faith in God, Nicole reached out to a friend and father figure who helped her find placement in a rehab center in Texas.
The Cheyenne Center, Texas (top right image)
Nicole’s time in Rehab empowered her with the structure and tools necessary to deal with drug dependency. Removed from the rest of society among a group of strangers, Nicole found a place and space to face her demons. Alternately comparing the facility to a prison and to a school, Nicole acknowledged that the Cheyenne Center helped “save her life”.
“The Justice Center, New Orleans” (bottom left image)
After Rehab Nicole got picked up by police in New Orleans behind some missed court dates from her past. She spent several weeks in the Justice Center in a two-person cell before being released. Her cellmate was Muslim and kept a copy of the Quran under his mattress, the only personal item that was allowed in the cell. Upon release Nicole worked with Women With A Vision counselling sex workers, and now works fulltime in a restaurant.
“Greater St. Stevens Full Gospel Baptist Church, New Orleans” (bottom right image)
Since childhood Nicole has been a member of the Greater St Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans East. Throughout her life challenges she remained connected to her spirituality and turned to her faith to help “cleanse the pain.” Nicole is particularly moved by the transcendent power of the choir, sitting close to the front to best enjoy the healing energy and music.
The Perilous Fight, 2018