Thanks to the outrageously talented Ariel Springfield, the Assata Shakur Teach-Ins have a poster that can be used to advertise your event.
Category: Art and Social Change
The Lovesong of Emmett Till
by Anthony Walton
More than likely she was Irish
or Italian, a sweet child who knew him
only as a shy clown.
Colleen, Jenny or Marie, she
probably didn’t even know
he had her picture,
that he had traded her cousin
for baseball cards or a pocketknife,
that her routine visage
sat smoldering in his wallet
beyond any price.
He carried his love
like a burden, and devotion
always has to tell.
Hell, he was just flirting
with that lady in the store,
he already had his wife
woman back up in Chicago.
He wasn’t greedy, just showing
off, showing the rustics
how it was done. He had an eye,
all right, and he was free
with it, he knew they loved it.
Hey baby, was all he said,
and he meant it as a compliment,
when he said it in Chicago
the white girls laughed.
So when they came to get
him,he thought it was
a joke, he proclaimed himself guilty
of love, he showed them
the picture and paid the price of
not innocence, but affection, affection
for a little black-haired, blue-eyed
girl who must by now be an older
woman in Chicago, a woman
who will never know
she was to die for, that he died
refusing to take back her name,
his right to claim he loved her.
In early February as the nation’s eyes turned once again to Chicago after the killing of Hadiya Pendleton, I found myself feeling progressively more frustrated. While the media and politicians were talking about gangs and more police, I was hearing anger and in some cases despair among the youth and adults with whom I interact regularly. I wrote about the source of some of the anger from youth here.
Usually frustration with the status quo leads me to hatch a new idea or plan. I took to my personal facebook page and asked my friends if they would be willing to join me in creating an audio collage that would assemble multiple voices of Chicagoans speaking about the impact of violence in just ONE SENTENCE.
My friends Lewis, Sarah, Sharmili, Martin, Rachael, and Bryan stepped up to help with this project and we were on our way. Sharmili created a Thunderclap that ultimately reached over 60,000 people on Twitter and Facebook. Lewis and Sarah volunteered to edit the audio collage. I created the google voice account and our website. And we all spread the word to our friends and colleagues through social media inviting them to participate in Uproar Chicago.
I am excited to invite everyone to the unveiling of the final audio collage on Wednesday April 24th at 5:30 p.m. Details are here and below. The event will also include a peace circle where participants can talk about the impact that violence has on us as individuals, on our communities, and on the city as a whole.
I am profoundly grateful to my friends who helped make this project a reality. I am deeply appreciative of all of the people who shared their thoughts and words with us. For a sense of how powerful the audio collage will be, listen to just a short sample of the voices that we collected. Join us on April 24th to hear more…
The wonderfully generous and talented artist Ariel Springfield contributed three pieces of art work to our Black and Blue: Art on Policing, Violence & Resistance exhibition. I share her contributions below:
My friend Billy Dee, who volunteers with my organization and often collaborates with me on art-related projects wrote the following reflections about ze’s visit with Bowen High School students as part of the Black and Blue: Art on Policing, Violence and Resistance exhibit.
This past week I had an opportunity to meet students from Bowen High School who shared amazing artworks with Project NIA for an exhibit entitled Black & Blue: Art on Policing, Violence, and Resistance. The students made linocut prints in response to the topic of the exhibit with art-teacher Bert Stabler. They generously shared over a hundred colorful and thought provoking pieces that we were able to display in both the gallery and the storefront windows, where they caught the eye of many passers-by at the U.I.C. SJI (Social Justice Initiative) Pop-Up art Gallery. I was impressed by the students artworks as they addressed issues ranging from the systemic racist violence in the C.P.D., to personal experiences of police violence, to the police harassment faced by trans people. One artwork that caught my eye as we installed the exhibit was a piece in which the artist had engraved an image of a C.P.D. badge accompanied by the phrase “we dirty up the black, but keep the white clean”. I was able to meet the young woman who made this piece during the visit, and told her that I thought her piece made a strong statement. What she said in response was interesting to me- she said something to the effect of: “I didn’t want to offend anybody, but that is what I was thinking, so that is the phrase I used in my piece.” I made sure to explain that making a strong statement in one’s art is something I respect very much, and that I found the piece both beautiful and also impactful.
I had a chance to talk to several students, and almost everyone I talked to mentioned some type of negative experience with the CPD. As we talked, we reviewed the stated purpose of the police (“to serve and protect”). A few students noted that the police can (and sometimes do) “serve and protect” but too-often this takes place on their own terms.
One young woman talked about the way that the police target her home neighborhood of Roseland. She talked about the fact that she sees cops all over the place, but does not let them intimidate her as she knows her rights when they approach on the street (yeah!). During the visit, a young man who was not able to finish his linocut for the exhibit shared a drawing to add to the artworks. Below a simple portrait, he wrote the phrase “Inmate of Society welcome to the end of You life of Police Brutality”. In addition to the artwork, the exhibit included a map on which visitors could use pins to mark locations in the city of Chicago where they had witnessed or experienced a negative interaction with police. During the visit, someone pinned an index card onto the map with the words “my sister was shot and killed”.
Continuing with the theme of the week, this is a great photo by Anderson Chaves, a young person who is a member of LuchArte. The photo titled “This is Not Where I Want My Education” is included in the Black and Blue exhibit. Chaves also has the following artwork in the show.
Stop by this Saturday to see the art and to participate in a reading about policing, violence and resistance.
So this week has been terrific and exhausting so far.
I am grateful to my friend Billy Dee for designing a great art exhibition. My friends Eva and Claudia stepped up to help with set up as well. My thanks to all of the artists who contributed to the exhibit and to the amazing volunteers who created the pamphlets that inspired this exhibit and series of events. The exhibition has been incredibly well received and the event well-attended. My deepest gratitude to everyone.
We are screening “Death of Two Sons” this evening at 6 p.m. Feel free to join us. Details are here.
Below are some photographs taken by the most talented Sarah Jane Rhee. Those who can’t make it to see the exhibition in person can now travel through parts of it with Sarah’s wonderful photos.
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Who Failed, What Failed?
Society never failed.
They say it was all me.
After all, Isn’t that the reason the court calls me guilty?
It was not my family.
They’re trying to do what is best.
That’s why they turned me in, placed me under arrest.
And it was not the cops that bruised my wrists.
It was the cuffs clamped too tight, even though I did not resist.
And the shirt that was ripped as they threw me around
didn’t matter at all, because I was screwin’ around.
Was my family doing what was best when they smacked me
around because I fled school?
The teachers barely taught, and they never try to
understand. It’s learning communication and support
that turns boys into men.
It’s no one’s fault but my own, and I do understand.
As long as society continues to lie, it is all my fault,
and I hold in the cry.
Source: Illustrations from the Inside: The Beat Within (2007)