Justice for Trayvon: Artists Remember and Fight Back
Like thousands of people around this country, I was horrified, outraged, and saddened by the “not guilty” verdict regarding defendant George Zimmerman, who two Februarys ago shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. If you’re unfamiliar with the details of the story, I direct you to the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Trayvon_Martin), with an advisory to take some of the information with a grain of salt.
Better and more relevant writers than I have analyzed exactly what is wrong with the verdict, so I won’t go there. But I do want to draw your attention to this list of artwork (http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/works-of-art-paying-tribute-to-trayvon-martin) posted by Buzzfeed. In particular, here are three artworks that moved me.
Michael D’Antuono (http://www.artandresponse.com/paintings/a-tale-of-two-hoodies.html) has the reputation of a more controversial artist, who often attacks right-wing ideology and social sickness in the United States through symbolism and a realistic style. This painting has come under fire for not being a literal representation of the story of Marin’s killing: Zimmerman was not a police officer or a member of the KKK, and Trayvon was not a little kid. But the impact of this piece comes from its use of a specific tragedy to address a broader one: the murder of young black men, of black children, by a militarized white racist citizenry as well as by the police. This is a prime example of the way art can use hyperbole- things that are not literally “true,” to tell a deeper truth.
I find this piece of graphic art particularly pertinent because of the way Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, the last person to speak to him, was treated during her testimony. She was mocked for her weight, her style of speech, and her perceived reticence. Her intelligence and truthfulness were completely irrationally questioned. No one in the courtroom seemed to understand how traumatized she must be, and how brave she was for testifying. Farand’s piece is stark and to the point- it forces the viewer to face the truth of Jeantel’s pain. It forces the viewer to re-humanize her.
Dáreece Walker’s (http://dwalkerart.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=179530260) painting links the 1955 racist murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till- who also never received legal justice- with the murder of Trayvon Martin. It’s so important to remember the hundreds, if not thousands, of Black children killed by police and vigilantes alike, and to remember that Martin’s murder was not an isolated incident. George Zimmerman is just one of a multitude of killers; he and others like him are backed (think of all the people supporting the Zimmerman verdict on Twitter and other social media venues) by the kind of system that devoured Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin alive.
Please visit The Trayvon Martin Foundation (“http://trayvonmartinfoundation.org/), an organization founded by Martin’s parents, to see what you can do to help his survivors and join the resistance against the murder of kids. And please consider signing the NAACP’s petition(https://donate.naacp.org/page/s/doj-civil-rights-petition?source=zimmermannotguiltypetitionrotator&utm_medium=Rotator&utm_source=NAACP&utm_campaign=zimmermannotguiltypetitionrotator) to get the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.