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May 08, 2020 4 min read 1 Comment

Kathy Eldon is more than just a mom and a grandmother. She is a teacher, journalist, author, film and television producer, and founder ofCreative Visions, an organization that supports creative activism globally. Every inch of her embodies LOVE. 

I had the joy of sitting down (six feet away, of course) with Kathy to learn more about her life this week.

I first learned about Kathy through her son Dan. While at Parsons School of Design in 1998, I picked up Dan’s photo journal book,The Journey Is The Destination. I was transfixed with the imagery from his life in Kenya, the raw collages, wiry humor, and philanthropic spirit. I was immediately inspired to travel to Kenya one day. While I never had the privilege to meet him, he was always an inspiration. 

In 1993, Kathy lost Dan when he was killed in Somalia while working as a photojournalist on assignment. What was a horrible tragedy that no mother should ever go through, emerged as an opportunity to make Dan’s memory lasting and an inspirational tool for change. Kathy believes, “Where there is violence, let there be a move to peace, where there is anger, let there be forgiveness, where there is chaos, harmony and where there is hatred, let there be love.”

Let’s talk about Dan for a moment. Dan was a creative activist who used photography to tell stories that ignited action. While Dan’s unique talent enabled him to do incredible work, Kathy wants people to know that “It is never just one individual. Dan was surrounded by an extraordinary community of creative people and activists.” When Kathy and Dan lived in Kenya, they both learned from remarkable Kenyan storytellers—from the artists, sculptors, journalists, humanitarians, to the philanthropists. 

Kathy says, “A little rubbed off on Dan from everyone we had the privilege of meeting. Kenya was a formative place for my whole family. The attitude, can-do spirit, not just in Kenya but Africa, is the formation of who and how I am, in my children as well.”

As a mother and grandmother, Kathy takes her role as a matriarch role model very seriously. I wanted to learn more about how she identifies as a mother and activist, in one. 

First: mother. I asked her what her favorite thing was about being a mom. 

She said, “It’s seeing my kids care about others, being an example to others—through kindness and caring. It was beautiful to see my son Dan inspire people to be more of who they are, achieve their potential for themselves and others….seeing Amy step out of Dan’s shadow after he was killed and step into the light and be an exemplary being of compassion and empathy. That gives me the greatest joy of all...seeing an individual make an impact on the people around them. That’s what matters to me. I’m proud of them beyond measure.”

Next: activist. Kathy said, “Every mother is a creative activist—it means to care about things in the world around you. To open your children and grandchildren’s eyes to what’s happening, whether it’s a person experiencing homelessness on a street corner who you can positively impact through a smile or an offer of help. Teach children by modeling yourself as an example to care, but not just care, act. You mustbe it, it’s not enough to say it. If mothers are passionate about things that matter, children will usually follow.”

We dove into the topic of social justice, what it means, and how we can teach our children. 

Kathy explained, “Social justice means being caring, being kind, and being fair. Kids hate things that aren’t fair, but if we can take that anger and sense of injustice, we can roll it out and look at the world around us, and we can say ‘Hey, does that seem fair?’ If we look at people being targeted because of their race, religion, or culture, we can ask ‘Hey, does that feel fair?’ Children are intrinsically wired to care about fairness. Whether it’s a size of a slice of chocolate cake or their bedtime, they want fair. Show them the inequality in the world around us.”

I asked Kathy what social issues fired her up at the moment. She said that it really depends on the day (which I can’t blame her!). She’s exposed to every social issue under the sun while working with Creative Visions. She shared, “Ultimately, we need to recreate a world that works for all. Not just the top 1%. This is where I’m committed to being an active force in storytelling around this world we wish to create.”

Finally, we asked her the most important question, what does LOVE mean to you?

Kathy said, “For me, LOVE means helping people achieve their potential. Not only for themselves,
but for the world around them.” 

Let’s reflect and celebrate this extraordinary mom and activist by taking a deep breath and digesting this final thought:

“Together, let us transform the intense pain of loss into a new sense of commitment to the raising of the consciousness of every person on this planet, with the objective of creating a new permanent peace, both inside and out, to heal at last, the wounded hearts and minds of us all.” -Kathy Eldon

XOXO, 

Founder, Love is Project

P.S. Let us know in the comments how this piece resonated with you! What was your favorite part? What else would you like to learn from Kathy?

P.S.S. Expect to see more from Kathy and Creative Visions here at Love Is Project. We smell some future collaborations a-brewin.' ; )

Here are a few photos from our visit!

Me and Kathy! I couldn’t visit her empty-handed so I brought along The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Also, we unintentionally color-coordinated (LOVE it when that happens).

For Kathy’s granddaughter, Arabella, “LOVE is chocolate ice cream.” Kathy loves playing with Arabella.


1 Response

Stefan
Stefan

May 14, 2020

Hi Chrissie!

It’s funny how conducive to falling in love with Dan’s story Parsons was. I had the same experience as you, though I was first introduced to Journey is the Destination at Parsons Paris (by a very inspiring teacher, Louise Holloway).

A year later, already at Parsons in NY, I wrote a deeply heartfelt email to Kathy declaring my love for Dan’s work and the inspiration to travel to Africa – this email has since been lost but there was one passage which stated ‘I have Africa on my mind, Europe in my heart, South America in my blood.’ Kathy responded in such a warm manner, and I was very, very inspired. She suggested I contact Dan’s father in Kenya, whenever I made it over there. While I did scratch my Africa itch a few years later, with a weeks-long overland expedition, Kenya was not in that initial trip.

Some time later, Kathy’s book In the Heart of Life was published and she had an author’s reading in London, where I was living. I was fortunate to attend; it was evident that Dan’s spirit lives on within all of us who were in attendance, as it was a great mix of people who either knew the Eldons or were inspired by them. I got to shake Kathy’s hand, nervous as I was, and handed her a copy of the email response she sent to me (a bit odd, perhaps, to hand her back her own words, but it was all I had as my original email was erased). I guess it was also my way of expressing gratitude for the inspiration she and Dan had sparked in me since my formative years at Parsons.

As it were, I made it to Kenya, some 15 years later than intended. Interestingly, I had a sense of knowing it ‘spiritually’, from having delved into Dan (& Kathy’s) work, words, and art. I didn’t get to explore as much of the country as I wanted – this was the tail-end of a joint-Tanzania trip – so I’ll have to go back. Side note: I’m also a big fan of the late Peter Beard, so tracing his legacy is also within remit of any return travels.

Chrissie, all this to say that I’m very excited by this partnership, and can’t wait to hear about the love you produce together! I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

Big hug & stay safe,
xS

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