the wall of truth

THE WALL OF TRUTH is an online community gathering space for sharing stories, images and reflections about overcoming personal obstacles. Conceived and produced by award winning filmmaker, author, educator and disability rights advocate, Crystal R. Emery, The Wall of Truth is a unique digital meeting place where participants post comments, ideas and questions about how to confront life’s most difficult challenges. The goal of the digital wall, plastered with stories of moving past roadblocks, is to illustrate that success doesn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege — it depends on hard work, merit and belief in the power of positive outcomes. As part of her three decade commitment to creating arts-based programs that promote cross cultural engagement and empathy, Emery has created a distinctive digital experience that gives participants the opportunity to share their stories of how they achieved success despite formidable hardships.

By uploading candid ideas and insights, THE WALL OF TRUTH contributors help to build an online library of the human experience, and offers an elegant and responsive interface where participants’ reflections can have a direct impact on the lives of young people today by serving as a possible road maps (or cautionary tales) for future possibilities.

Tell us your truth

Submit your story of overcoming, persevering, or enduring hardship, and how you came out the other side. Please limit your story to 1000 words, and you must include your full name and a valid email address. If your story is accepted for posting, we will contact you for a picture.

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Submit your story of overcoming, persevering, or enduring hardship, and how you came out the other side.

Please limit your story to 1000 words, and you must include your full name and a valid email address.

If your story is accepted for posting, we will contact you for a picture.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Bethany Hamilton

I think at first, adjusting to life with one arm was essentially really challenging because I was so used to doing everything with two arms, and all of the sudden, I’m relearning how to put my hair up and relearning how to surf. Sometimes it is desirable to think of life with two arms. Life would be simple, straightforward and easy, but even life with two arms isn’t simple, straightforward and easy. We all have our tough times and struggles. I remember trying to paddle out surfing and there were just waves crashing on me over and over again. Sometimes I would come in crying and frustrated and discouraged. The attack that happened to me was such a rare occurrence, but I still thought about it. So to fight that fear I would just get in the water and focus on catching the waves. I refused to dwell on ‘what-ifs.’

As a Christian I really cling tight to the promises that God has for my life. They remain steady and true, aren’t going to waiver or change and are there for us to rely on. He grows us in our faith as we go through hard times. It’s true overcoming challenges can make us stronger. We can adapt and thrive beyond our imagination in this challenging world; and be a hope to others in their challenges. This may sound cheesy but these actions make me smile. Shine bright. Sparkle, Rock it!

Karletta Chief

I grew up on the reservation and didn’t have electricity or running water. My community was impacted by mining where they used a lot of water to transport the coal and they use the coal to produce electricity. That really made me think about why my family and my community didn’t have access to running water or electricity. But yet when I would go to school it was common for everybody to have those amenities.

I was always very interested in math and science ever since elementary school. So from there I just focused on doing well in school and thought about college even though I didn’t really know anybody that went to college. I got accepted into Stanford, even though no one in my family had ever gone to college. It was a really huge adjustment both culturally and academically. My parents drove me there and dropped me off, so I was just there and had to adjust from reservation life to the luxury of being at Stanford – basically ivory towers, where people were more than adequately prepared to go to college. This was the first time I had electricity and running water. On top of that I was lost in the sense of being the only person who was just experiencing the priviliges that people take for granted like electricity and running water. Just experiencing for the first time people that don’t know who you are, much less know a lot about being Native American or Navajo.

Academically it was also a huge adjustment as well. I did excellent in high school, but now I was competing against Tiger Woods and Chelsea Clinton and all these young people that had the best education to get to Stanford. And so, the competition was fierce. Even the teaching and learning style was very different from what I was used to. It’s not the traditional way of learning. I also had to develop a different type of communication. Because growing up as a young child on the reservation, you’re expected to listen and learn. I never was asked to actively voice my thought or critique. So all of that was very different for me. It was the programs in the Native American Center at Stanford and the minority engineering programs that really gave me the support I needed to be successful through my undergraduate years.

Maya Angelou

Throughout our nervous history, we have constructed pyramidic towers of evil, oftentimes in the name of good. Our greed, fear and lasciviousness have enabled us to murder our poets, who are ourselves, to castigate our priests, who are ourselves. The lists of our subversions of the good stretch from before recorded history to this moment. We drop our eyes at the mention of the bloody, torturous Inquisition. Our shoulders sag at the thoughts of African slaves lying spoon-fashion in the filthy hatches of slave-ships, and the subsequent auction blocks upon which were built great fortunes in our country. We turn our heads in bitter shame at the remembrance of Dachau and the other gas ovens, where millions of ourselves were murdered by millions of ourselves. As soon as we are reminded of our actions, more often than not we spend incredible energy trying to forget what we’ve just been reminded of.

To show you … how out of evil there can come good, in those five years I read every book in the black school library. I read all the books I could get from the white school library. I memorized James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes. I memorized Shakespeare, whole plays, fifty sonnets. I memorized Edgar Allen Poe, all the poetry — never having heard it, I memorized it. I had Longfellow, I had Guy de Maupassant, I had Balzac, Rudyard Kipling — I mean, it was catholic kind of reading, and catholic kind of storing.

Out of this evil, which was a dire kind of evil, because rape on the body of a young person more often than not introduces cynicism, and there is nothing quite so tragic as a young cynic, because it means the person has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing. In my case I was saved in that muteness… And I was able to draw from human thought, human disappointments and triumphs, enough to triumph myself.

Uriah Monk

I am Uriah Monk, fourtholdest of fifteen siblings. And this is my truth: my journey of becoming amultimedia artist.  I was a small, hard-headedkid. Continuously hyper: running around all day long until I was told to stopthree times. But I was very intelligent, reading at the second-grade level inkindergarten. Artistically skilled too. I drew everything I liked: my family, myfavorite action figures, and the butterflies we took care of in kindergarten. Unfortunately,my creative and kind personality was not able to blossom due to the trauma Iexperienced from my father.

My parents divorced when I was young. Onweekdays, my younger brother, three sisters and I would stay with my father. Onweekends, we stayed with our mother. Throughout that time, my father becameincreasingly aggressive and abusive towards us. His actions were justified andrighteous according to his Israelite beliefs. Regular spankings turned into physicaland verbal abuse very quickly, even over the smallest things. We were told tohide our bruises and tell anyone in school that asked that, “we fell down thestairs.” The fear he engraved in us made us incapable of crying out for help.But the school faculty members were perceptive. They noticed changes in ourbehavior and decided to check on us frequently and investigate. It took awhile, but my father exposed and arrested. We were removed from his custody andplaced in the care of my aunt. I did not see my mother for 7 years after that anddid not see my father for 14 years.
My aunt and the Monk family provided us with a safeplace to live and the love we longed for. They continued us on our path ofeducation and taught us the importance of honesty, integrity, and respect.Unfortunately, a couple years after we were placed in her care, she became illand was unable to take care of us all. She reached out to the family anddecided to continue taking care of my three sisters while my younger brotherand I went to live with her brother (our uncle). This was the first time we methim and his wife. We settled into our new home after years of adjustment andtherapy. My sisters were happy with my aunt, and we saw each other often. In 2009,my brother and I were adopted by our uncle, who I now call father. Hisprofessional demeanor, care and wisdom reflects the person I am today.

I graduated from North Haven High School in 2013with high honors. Here is where I learned the elements and principles of artand design and was exposed to graphic arts for the first time. I enrolledat Central Connecticut State University, where Ireconnected with my 5th grade writing teacher: Crystal Emery. Sherecognized my technical and artistic potential and hired me as an intern forher company URU The Right To Be. I learned while working with her and the URUteam what it truly means to work hard and to work for a purpose greater thanyourself. I learned accountability, responsibility, and teamwork. Crystal becamethe voice of reason throughout my college experience. She gave me essentialadvice, which helped me define my career path, as well as a good talking to whenI nearly flunked one semester and needed a reality check. Thanks to her and themany people who supported me on my journey, I graduated from CCSU in 2017 witha Bachelor’s in Graphic/Information Design. Two months after that, I was hired as agraphic artist for FOX61 news in Hartford, CT. My job was to create livegraphics for the evening news show. I continued working with URU. We traveledthe country; inspiring people to pursue STEM careers. We hosted countlessworkshops and events for all people and challenged the hearts and minds of our participants.In 2016, we screened Crystal’s feature film Black Women In Medicine intheatres throughout America, which has been seen by over 12 million peopleworldwide! I was proud to be part of the production team creating thismonumental film. I willforever be grateful Crystal Emery, the URU team, my family, friends, and everyoneelse who supported me over the years. Without them, I would not be the man I amtoday. I take pride that I did not succumb to the darkness of my past and emergedtriumphant. For those who stuck with me and continue to show me unconditionallove, I thank you. I have been given the tools necessary to carve my own pathto greatness and success. The next step of my journey is to receive a master’sdegree in motion media design from Savannah College of Art & Design. And Iwill do it with honor and integrity.