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
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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
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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
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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
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I am Uriah Monk, fourth oldest out of many siblings. Growing up, I was a short, energetic, hard-headed kid. However, I was very smart for my age; reading at the second-grade level in kindergarten. I am also very artistic. I love drawing so much that I would sketch everything I liked. I drew my family, cartoon characters, and the butterflies we took care of in kindergarten. However, I was not able to shine as a kind and creative kid due to my traumatic childhood.

My parents divorced when I was 5 or 6 years old. I bounced from one parent to the other for years until I was separated from both of them at the age of 11. This was due to my father’s abuse. He tormented and beat us for years until the school faculty saw the bruises he left on our bodies. He made us fear him to the point where we were incapable of crying for help; fearing that he would kill us for snitching on him. My mother did not regain custody of me and my 4 siblings after that and we did not see her for the next 7 years.

Fortunately, our aunt took the five us in, providing us with a safe place to live and the love we longed for. But a year or two later, she became ill and was unable to take care of us all. She asked for help from the family. My sisters stayed with my aunt while my younger brother and I went to live with our uncle; who we just met for the first time. After years of adjustment and therapy, we settled into our new home, continued our education, and were adopted by our uncle; who I now call father. His professional demeanor, care and wisdom shaped me to be the person I am today.

I graduated from North Haven High School in 2013 with high honors. This is where I learned the elements and principles of art and design; and was exposed to graphic arts for the very first time. I continued my education at Central Connecticut State University. And during this time, I reconnected with my 5th grade writing teacher: Crystal Emery. She recognized my technological and artistic potential and hired me as paid intern for URU The Right To Be. Throughout the time working with Crystal and URU, I learned what it truly means to work hard and to work for a purpose greater than yourself. I learned accountability, responsibility, and how to work as a team. Crystal was the voice of reason in my college years; giving me essential advice that led me to defining my career path and scolding me when I nearly flunked one semester. Thanks to her and the many people who supported me on my journey, I graduated from college in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Graphic/Information Design.

Two months after that, I was hired as a graphic artist for FOX61 news in Hartford, CT; producing live news graphics for the evening news show. I continued to work with URU as well; traveling the country to inspire youth in pursing STEM careers and changing the beliefs of adults. We hosted countless workshops and events for all people. In 2016, we screened Crystal’s feature film Black Women In Medicine in theatres throughout America, which has been seen by over 12 million people worldwide!

I am forever grateful URU, Crystal Emery and all those who supported me throughout the years. Without them, I would not be the man I am today. I am grateful that I was able to triumph over my past and become a better man because of it. I am grateful to my friends and loved ones who never gave up on me and continue to show me unconditional love. Despite the challenges I may face on my journey, I will continue to strive for greatness as I pursue my career in motion media design and animation. And I will do it with honor and integrity.