Kathy Sublett: Miss Kathy

Words by Kathy Sublett, as told to Sarah Johnson; portrait by Sarah Johnson

Woman of God, Daughter, Mother, Grandmother, Volunteer, Trailblazer, and Advocate for the Underserved Communities

Either I was going to let the shame of my abuse destroy me or I was going to trust God to show me my purpose. I forgave myself.

Every morning I wake up, I'm thankful. I try to make the best of each day. I want to be known for my kindness and always showing up.

I liken myself to the philodendron plant. You can neglect it, not water it, but it somehow survives. The moment you give it some attention by watering it, it springs back to life. It grows through adversity; that's me!

I share my story so that people sitting in jail or being released from jail/prison can know, if you make a mistake, fix it, and move on. We  never know what the person sitting next to us is going through . . . And not knowing, a smile might change their whole day.

I feel there is something to be learned from everybody yet people are so judgmental. Don't judge a book by its cover because you'll miss the beauty of what's on the inside. There are walking flowers, walking encyclopedias, walking history, walking books, and many walking testimonials. If people could sit down and give the person who doesn't look like them, act like them, or dress like them 10 minutes of their time, you'd be amazed at what you might learn.

I want to motivate! I want to be a power surge of, “You can do whatever you put your mind and energy into.”

Artist Statement

I had the honor of sitting with Miss Kathy over the course of a few hours around her 65th birthday, and of painting her portrait from a beautiful photo taken of her at her birthday party by Kris Hipps. Thank you to Miss Kathy–a radiant light of a human–for sharing your story, wisdom and time with me, and for all you do in this world.
-Sarah Johnson, Community Engaged Artist

Quote on Ms. Kathy's Portrait
“One thing I would say I wish people could comprehend is, every choice you make, whether good or bad has a consequence. At this point you will either live a life filled with joy, or a life filled with chaos and pain. 

Life is short and sweet. But life truly is what you make it. Life begins outside of our comfort zones. Invite a stranger for a cup of coffee. Show an act of kindness. Extend a good deed. My greatest joy is to pay it forward. The joy is in giving. We are all God's children. Know your worth. Grow yourself to the next level!!”

Future Miss Kathy’s Message to Present Miss Kathy
“Number one, I can't believe that you are who you are. I cannot believe, like pinch me, you know? And I'm just so proud of the work that you have done. You worked your program and now your program is working for you. You planted your fate. You were not a jailhouse Christian, which is what I fear. You got out and you walked the walk and you talk the talk. And now I know that there's nobody that can judge me. I'm proud that you don't let people judge you. Because that's where the people pleasing came in. Yes, we all care what people think, but I don't.  And for those that I care what they think, it's worth a conversation to me. And so I’m very proud that you even made it this far because really I was spiritually dead. I was emotionally dead. I was everything but physically dead, and God resurrected me and saved me from myself. So I would definitely tell this Kathy, ‘I'm proud of you.’”

Learn more about Let’s Erase the Stigma at facebook.com/profile.php?id=100076904545900.

Learn more about Sarah at www.thejoylabs.com.
Spillway is an initiative supporting artists, culture-bearers, and local organizations in their expression of the diverse cultures, communities, and histories of the Upper Mississippi River region.  

The stories shared here were produced through a collaboration between Art of the Rural and Engage Winona.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.