Black Lives Matter: creatives speak up in solidarity of the global movement
The creative industry is using its collective voice to challenge racist ideology and to support causes dedicated to systemic change.
- Jenny Brewer
- 9 June 2020
- Reading Time
- 8 minute read
Update 9 June:
As the movement was propelled by global protests and an outpouring of support online last week, creatives continued to help the cause in various ways – from artworks raising awareness and print sales raising funds, to new campaigns, initiatives and grants.
Earth Issue’s Freedom Fundraiser print sale has raised over £80,000 for two BLM organisations – Bail Funds: George Floyd and the 4Front Project – since launching last Friday. In response, the team has announced a new round of limited edition prints from photographers and artists including Jesse Crankson, Danika Magdelena, Chieska Fortune Smith, Poulomi Basu, Olivia Rose, Harley Weir, Daniel Castro Garcia and Henry Jay Kamara. The first round included creatives such as Adama Jalloh, Ronan McKenzie, Mark Clennon, Alexandra Leese, Jermaine Francis and Jack Davison. Each print is £100; the second release goes on sale 10am 9 June.
Margate gallery Newgate Gap installed a giant outdoor text-based artwork, with the words “I Can’t Breath” in black text on transparent fabric, hung between cliffs at the seafront, as part of local protests.
Channel 4 announced a new spate of commissions for Black filmmakers. A series of short films will explore the killing of George Floyd and its impact on Black Britons, while a series of longer-form films will dissect different aspects of the black experience and questions about race in modern Britain.
Cephas Williams’ initiative 56 Black Men started out as a campaign to usurp stereotypes, featuring 56 portraits of Black men in hoodies accompanied by the tagline “I am not my stereotype” and details of their profession. Its new UK-wide billboard campaign Let’s Not Forget (below) features the names of Black victims of police brutality, in simple white text on a black background, to “bring the message of justice to the streets of the UK,” to further its mission “to change the narrative”.
Creative Debuts has announced the Black Artists Grant, wherein it will give £500 “no strings attached” to a Black artist in the UK every month, indefinitely. The first recipients will be selected by Rooted Zine.
Artist Pete Fowler recreated David Hockney’s most iconic painting to reflect the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol; it’s brilliantly titled, A Bigger Fash.
Banksy posted a new artwork on his Instagram, along with a statement saying: “People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. This faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t – no one will let them in the apartment upstairs. This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”
Diedrick Brackens and Calida Rawles have created a limited run of posters (below) to raise money for five specific BLM organisations. Donate $100 dollars or more to one (or more) of these, then email your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will receive both posters.
Graphic artist Rafael Medeiros says as a Brown Latino queer immigrant to the US, he “feels deeply for minorities and wants to push our society positively forward” by amplifying voices. His contribution to the cause is a series of posters and stickers available to download for free, which can also be printed for free by print shop owners across the US that have donated their services (listed in the download presentation).
Artists including Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Alex Da Corte and Sharon Hayes contributed prints to a sale under the group Art For Philadephia. It sold out in a few days, with over 90 per cent of proceeds going to the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund.
Polly Nor is donating 100% of print sales (for a limited time) to Belly Mujinga’s family, and shared a statement on her Instagram – to her one million followers – saying: “White women, myself included, can’t just turn a blind eye just because it doesn’t affect us. We need to be honest with ourselves about our own privilege, and our complicity in white supremacy and structural racism. We all need to put in the work to educate ourselves, and challenge racial injustice not just by posting online but by actually speaking up behind closed doors too, at work, in our political parties and in our own communities.”
Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne painted a portrait of George Floyd for gallery Blank White Space (below), in his signature style where the face is obscured and the fabric or clothes are painted in vivid colour – in this case, Floyd is wrapped in the American flag. Titled Has To Stop, the painting is being sold in an edition of 150 Giclee prints, with half the proceeds going to Floyd’s family and half to the artist. Mayne comments: “Black people should not be seen or treated as if they are not human and not part of this society...I am black, I will always be black, it is never wrong to be black.”
As protests continue in the US following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, and the Black Lives Matter movement resurges around the world, the creative industry – a largely white industry – has produced a mixed reaction. Some have been vocal and pointed out to their quieter peers that silence at this time is not an option, and feeling unsure, ill-informed or unfit to comment publicly isn’t an excuse. Instead, they invite their fellow creatives to be actively anti-racist, and use their platforms to make issues heard and to support causes that are dedicated to impacting genuine change.
Hassan Rahim wrote on Instagram that while he usually has to “tiptoe” around these conversations, he no longer cares “what opportunities it costs me anymore. Nobody has the answers right now, there’s no perfect way to navigate this – but step a few inches out of your comfort zone and let people know where YOU stand on these issues. Use your CHEST to speak up for your Black friends and colleagues right now… you have a voice, and you have a platform. Trust me when I tell you the silence is deafening, and more than anything, truly disappointing.”
Type foundry Dinamo echoes that creatives “must not exploit this as an opportunity for yet another business exercise” by posting Black Lives Matter “in your hip, new display font”. Photographer and creative consultant Flo Ngala posted photos of the protests, saying: “The virus that is Discrimination and Prejudice, that virus is the one to fear, it’s killed us in the safety of our own cars, stores, homes and if you’re not doing something different with what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, you’re not doing enough.”
Similarly, photographer Philip Montgomery shared photos he’d taken of the protests in Minneapolis, detailing the violence and force used by police to disperse crowds, but also stating “there are displays of communal mourning and profound anguish too”.
Black Visions Collective calls for a “week of action” from 1-5 June in defense of Black Lives. “This is an opportunity to uplift and fight alongside those turning up in the streets and on the airwaves,” they wrote.
Photographer Daniel Castro Garcia posted work from his I Peri N’Tera project, specifically a photo of his subject Hamadou, and a message from him in reaction to the movement. “We are permanent targets and victims of racism,” Hamadou writes. “Black people are not safe anywhere. In Africa we are massacred by our leaders with the complicity of the Western powers, that take our resources and bury us in hunger and debt. In Europe we fill the ghettos, living in poverty, illegally, with no humanity. In the Middle East, Asia and the Maghreb we are enslaved, chased, imprisoned and sold. In America, the land of the free, we are killed in public places, begging to breathe. Black skin should not be abused. We are human beings like any other skin colour. We deserve justice and equality. Racism must not have a place in our societies. Let us fight and fight together against racism all over the world.”
Data journalist Mona Chalabi used Instagram's swiping function to shrewd effect, depicting the statistics relating to killings by police and criminal conviction.
Jessica Walsh said in a post, where the image was simply a black square: “As white people, we all benefit from institutionalised racism and white supremacy. We must strive on a daily basis to be actively anti-racist, to dedicate ourselves daily to learn and unlearn and overcome our country’s racist heritage and our internalised biases.” She added: “DO NOT STAY SILENT. Sharing social media posts is helpful for visibility, support and educating those you know… Listen to, learn from and amplify Black voices… Protest. Donate. Sign Petitions. Educate yourself on the history that has lead to where we are today. Have challenging and uncomfortable conversations with family and friends. Take action to defund the police and reform the criminal justice system. We need to continuously take action on the ground beyond these days when we see uprise on the streets or noise on our social media feeds.”
Chicago-based illustrator Crystal Zapata shared an image of protest flags, calling for a widespread addressing of injustice “to dismantle the racist systems that have governed this country from the start”. New York’s Lubalin Center posted a cover of Fact magazine from 1965, an image that has been widely shared as a depiction of the lack of change, stating “55 years have passed since this cover and here we are”.
Image via Pixabay