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More Than A Hashtag

Sandra Bland. Trayvon Martin. Tanisha Anderson. Micheal 'Mike" Brown. Aiyana Jones. Philandro Castle. Rekia Boyd. Oscar Grant. To the countless victims who’s stories we don’t know and who’s lives have been taken by police brutality.

Your stories will stay with us, we hold you close to our hearts, we are working towards justice and we will continue to say your name.

February 22nd 2020, I was graced to hear from three of the five Exonerated 'Central Park Five'. They spoke about the systemic problems within our [in]justice system. They also spoke to the importance of using education as a tool for Black people to utilize in the fight for equality and reform. It was during their speeches that I was inspired to create this body of work. I painted this piece before the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and it reiterates my intention to highlight that we as Black people deserve to be treated as more than a hashtag. It is painful to create a piece like this, it is painful to not be able to fit ALL the victims names and faces on this canvas, it is painful to not KNOW ALL of the Black men and women who have been murdered by law enforcement, it is a painful burden to carry.

There is an uproar going on in our world, voices screaming to be heard across our nation we are asking for change, a new reality. We are asking that Black people are no longer treated as 3/5th of a person but as whole beings. There has not been a moment in history in which the right to our livelihood has not been constantly threatened. It is exhausting to know we are a part of a country that doesn’t acknowledge at its core that we have a right to exist. So what happens when the protesting stops but the pain lingers? When terror becomes familiar?, when fear is passed down generations instilling what it’s like to be Black in America.

I sincerely hope that this movement leads to significant change in systems and policies that surrounds our policing. Unfortunately, our law enforcement isn’t the only institution that needs reform. Black people face this discrimination from many facets; in our education system where schools receive insufficient funding or lack of culturally responsive educators for our youth, our health care system where too often Black people, especially Black women receive improper care, or in our "Justice" system where justice often falls short for Black Americans but remains steady and true for others.

We cannot be complacent and only having these conversations in these moments. The trauma of black death is not a one-time conversation, it is more than a moment for holidays and birthdays, for Black history month, and during these moments of trauma and death. It needs to become a constant conversation, my goal as an artist is to freeze these moments in time and create opportunities to foster conversations. We are all different and we contribute in different ways, some are protesting in the streets, some are posting and spreading awareness through social media, some are donating silently, some are creating, some are taking the time to intentionally educate themselves. All are necessary for the progression for social change.

A wise man once said “Artists are here to disturb the peace.” and as an artist I gladly welcome the role and responsibility to create bodies of work that make people uncomfortable at times, discuss and hold conversations with themselves and others and highlights the realities of our world no matter how disheartening it can be at times. I will continue to do this work because I am indebted to the truth tellers and justice seekers who’ve come before me. I find myself looking towards my ancestors in these moments, educating myself on their philosophies and strategies to create my own so I can best create change in these moments. As heavy as I feel and how difficult and exhausting it is to be a Black woman in America, I have hope in our resiliency. We are REMARKABLE people.

To the families who have lost a daughter, a son, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a friend, or a family member, we love you, we are fighting for justice, we will not stop saying their names.

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