Ava DuVernay joined forces with Time magazine as guest editor for its new special issue “The Art of Optimism.” Acting legend Cicely Tyson is featured as one of the cover stars for the special issue, which went on sale Friday.
The acclaimed director shared her motivation for guest-editing the issue in a letter to readers published by Time.
“When I was invited to guest-edit this issue, TIME’s second special issue devoted to optimism, it was on a particularly dreary day,” DuVernay wrote. “The national headlines were what we’ve come to expect: bigotry, poverty, injustice, trauma, trouble.”
“I weighed my own feelings of despair and doubt against the idea of reveling in an experience dedicated to optimism,” she went on. “The choice was easy. I wanted to explore the other side.”
“The Art of Optimism” is the magazine’s second annual multimedia project focused on “what is working around the world,” according to a press release. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates served as the first-ever guest editor for the magazine’s 2018 special issue.
This year’s special edition features two covers. One displays an original painting by South African painter Nelson Makamo, 36, and the other features Tyson, 94, photographed by Djeneba Aduayom.
In an interview with Time, Tyson explained why it has been important for her to remain optimistic throughout her six-decade career.
“If I were not optimistic, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “Truly. Look at the state of the world today. You better be optimistic. You really do have to have faith and belief and understanding in order to survive.”
DuVernay partnered with the magazine to share a selection of video submissions from readers who were asked to show their interpretations of optimism.
One submission came from a woman named Freedom LeMoi of Conway, Arkansas, who shared an empowering message about surviving breast cancer twice.
“My mantra is ‘Cancer took my breast, but not my breath,’” LeMoi said in the video.
The “Optimism” issue highlights 34 people who are changing the world, including Laverne Cox, Lena Waithe and Guillermo del Toro.
“As the gifted theologian Howard Thurman once wrote: ‘Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace,’” DuVernay wrote in her editor’s letter. “Our goal here is for you to luxuriate in that lurking as we present the idea of optimism, hopeful progress and radical change through the appreciation of art.”