Headlines in many outlets are focused on divisiveness these days, but if you look a little deeper, the stories of positivity, love and kindness await us.
Today, we shine the light on “Classroom of Compassion,” a Los Angeles-based floral and creative arts organization that works to create restorative and artistic spaces of compassion and love for people of all communities. The core of their message stems from the mantra, “I Hope U Know How Loved You Are,” a reminder that each and every person is loved and worthy of care.
The work they do is for the community, by the community and created with the community in mind. They spoke with us about the work they do and how they are aiming to bring society closer together, one person at a time.
Q&A WITH CLASSROOM OF COMPASSION
Q: Compassion is something we can all use more of these days. How did the organization get its start?
A: We first got our start supporting our LGBTQIA+ community during the week of LA Pride in June 2018. Since the beginning our work has been in conversation with the concept of communal grief. June 2018 marked the second anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, which at that time was the largest mass shooting in US history and to this day remains the deadliest incident in the history of violence against LGBTQIA+ people in the United States.
During that 2018 LA Pride weekend, we created a public healing space that honored the 49 lives lost at Pulse Nightclub. We made it a practice to learn as much as we could about each individual. If that person was an artist, we sat with their artwork. If they were singers, we listened to their music. We invited each life into our home and honored them with action. In addition to the altar, we also took to the streets that weekend with a giant 24’ handmade Pride flag with the words “I hope u know how loved u are” written across the. This mantra of care has since been the driving force behind everything that we do.
Q: What have been some of your other projects?
A: We try to care for Los Angeles by being in conversation with our community through acts of compassion as a public service. We believe in the practice of showing up for one another and we practice that any time we create within the Classroom of Compassion.
Like so many across the country, COVID-19 forced us to reimagine ways in which we could feel connected and foster community even while having to remain physically apart. During LA Pride 2020, we created our version of a safer-at-home model of a Compassion Care Kit. We named this project, 49 Crowns and delivered it to 49 Queer artists, activists, and students across Los Angeles. 49 Crowns is a lesson in Pride and a way for us to remember some of the titans that helped get our community where it is now. This project honored Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, James Baldwin, and Stormé DeLarverie as well as the 49 Lives lost at Pulse and the Trans and Gender-Nonconforming lives lost in 2020.
In September, we collaborated with the Skirball Cultural Center in honoring the legacy and pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We built a living memorial on the front steps of the Skirball that patrons had the opportunity to visit from their cars or visit up close and leave letters, gifts, flowers or sentiments. We reimaged what coming together as a community would look like given the social-distancing restrictions of the moment.
Public memorial and altar spaces for our communities are something we believe so deeply in. Communal grief and tragedy are often seeped into these physical locations and we try to reclaim that public space with nurturing moments of reflection. We have a project within the Classroom of Compassion called “Rest in Power LA.” We’ve created memorials, vigils, and altars for some of our most beloved Los Angeles community members lost, such as Kobe Bryant and Naya Rivera. And we also work to honor and share the lives of those lost in our local communities through violence, such as Andres Guardado and Juan Carlos Hernandez.
Q: What types of responses have you gotten to these initiatives?
A: We’re always so incredibly touched and moved by the responses we receive from our work. Whether it’s people sharing what our mantra “I hope u know how loved u are” has meant to them on a day they needed that extra support or someone sharing what creating an altar for their loved one has meant to their family.
Compassion is an energizing emotion on both ends. Our favorite responses come from people who have been inspired to take action and create their own set of compassionate responses for their communities. It just shows us that compassion is a cycle that leads to communal healing through us showing up for one another.
Q: “I hope u know how loved u are” is a mantra so many need to hear right now.
A: Our mantra of love is one we’ve said to one another these past 14 years and is a reminder of our inherent right to be loved just as we are even and especially through the storms. A reminder of your space to be loved and worthy of love just as u are.
It is part of our compassion practice as every piece, every space, every offering is always an embodiment of those eight words. From our uniforms to our street art reminders, “I hope u know how loved u are” has been our greatest community tool.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: You can follow us on Instagram where we share our actions, call to actions and calls to community to create a more compassionate world together. You can shop on our website and we also will host our classrooms from the past few years and the spaces that the Classroom of Compassion will be popping up next. Also be sure to check out our Go Fund me sponsorships.
David Maldonado and Noah Reich
Co-Founders, Classroom Of Compassion
Classroom of Compassion is a Los Angeles based 501 (c)(3) floral and creative arts organization dedicated to teaching and sharing the restorative and artistic practice of compassion and self compassion through flowers, creativity and community care.