April 26, 2012

America Now - Walking While Black

In the black community in Canada and the US, when certain events happen to our brothers, our fathers, ourselves, we say "Oh ... DWB.", and shake our heads.  It means, "Driving While Black". 





It's a shorthand used to describe the times we are pulled over for driving in the "wrong" neighbourhood (affluent, mostly white neighbourhoods); for driving the "wrong" kind of car (expensive), or just for simply being around when a certain kind of cop is bored.

This doesn't mean of course, that all police are bad, racist or ignorant; but it does mean that enough of them are that a phrase like this became part of our shorthand.


George Zimmerman, a man who in the months prior to shooting Trayvon Martin had made over 90 calls to 911 to complain of "suspicious persons" in his neighbourhood (nearly all of whom were black); conversed with 911 operators on that night as well, and was recorded as saying as he left his vehicle to pursue Trayvon Martin:
"These assholes, they always get away."

...and less than 20 minutes later, Trayvon Martin - an unarmed, 17 year old boy, who went to the store in the rain to get his little brother a pack of skittles -  was dead.

Trayvon Martin was walking while black.



And so he joined other black children whose deaths caused a public outcry and calls for reform - from 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 to 14-year-old Martin Anderson in 2006.

The shooting of Trayvon has engendered a lot of conversation about race, racial profiling, the roll of media, gun control and hoodies - these and many other subjects which I will discuss in my art over the next little while - all of which have nothing (or very little) to do with the events that happened the night Trayvon Martin was killed by Mr. Zimmerman.

Initially, I viewed those conversations as a "Look over here!" tactic; but as I've been thinking (and thinking and thinking) I realized that his death has turned a spotlight on those issues - and we do need to talk about them.


But as I (we?) talk about those issues, I don't want to lose sight of this boy: this-nearly-a-man who was not a perfect boy, but was perfectly loved; and who was guilty of nothing but WWB. 

There has been a lot of talk about whether Mr. Zimmerman is white.  But whether he was white or not doesn't matter.

What matters is that Trayvon Martin was killed, because he was black.


Photobucket

For those of you who are interested in the process behind the process, and why I chose to do what I did -  I'll be offering an explication over the weekend.  'Till then...

Linking with TGIFF at Christine's blog.

46 comments:

  1. wow. just wow - reading that post and looking at your piece made me feel very quiet and moved. goosebumpy, in fact.

    this is art and this is the role of art - to speak truth

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  2. I'm glad you made this.

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  3. WOW thanks for sharing your artwork... very moving.

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  4. I haven't gotten to the place where I want to say something with my 'art'. But I want to. I'm beginning to see the voice that art has.

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  5. All I can say is - I'm impressed. Very much impressed !!

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  6. Your art is powerful, sincere and moving. So very, very tragic and incomprehensible.

    You have captured your emotions in this piece and told the story.

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  7. Wow, Kit, what an incredible piece and tribute. When I first heard of Trayvon's murder, my heart broke for him and his family. It boggles my mind that such hate can exist. You always inspire me and make me think. Thank you!

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  8. Very eloquently stated! I love your piece.

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  9. I applaud you for starting the conversation. It's easy for those of us who are not from a racial or ethnic minority group to think that racial bias is a thing of the past. The only way things will change is if we are all reminded of the realities many people face on a daily basis.

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  10. A great piece, well done.

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  11. My heart breaks...I live in this bubble where I accept all cultures and am so proud to know so many humans that come from different lands. And then when I heard about this, I cried. When will this end? I love your piece. So powerful and haunting. Thank you for making us think.

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  12. very powerful and meaningful. Well done!

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  13. Art. Power. Why don't you have a gallery with your work on display? Kit, you are an amazing woman.

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  14. What a perfect statement...Peace & Blessings to you and those you honor!

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  15. Wow! Well said, well created, well lived. It's so sad that this is still going on. I grew up in the deep South, was even bussed to African American majority school. I'm so glad that this opportunity taught me tolerance and exposed me to such a rich racially diverse and culturally diverse environment. This murder shows that there is still so much more that we should all be doing. My heart bleeds for Trayvon's family. As the mom of a teenage boy, this touches me deeply. Thanks for opening up the conversation!

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  16. A wonderful and moving piece of art.

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  17. Your piece has a great impact. Moved by your piece, people will think and talk. That´s the only way to get changes. Thank you for making and sharing this impressive piece of art.

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  18. Very important piece. Glad that you made it...and that I saw it.

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  19. Very powerful piece! Thank you for creating it.
    Death at the hands of another anywhere in the cycle of life from contreception to nature death is a tragedy. When will we ever learn!
    Hopefully a voice in Florida will begin the process of repealing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law in the name and memory of Trayvon... Through that perhaps some scrap of positive will come out of this tragedy.

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  20. Hey Kit, A tough subject and you have expressed yourself eloquently with this piece. Well done, my friend.

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  21. Very powerful and powerfully executed (no pun intended). I hear the message loud and clear.

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  22. I found this a very interesting and thought provoking post. I think it's wonderful that your quilt is both a moving personal tribute and a catalyst for conversation and, I hope, change.

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  23. Thank you Hollis, and thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Thank you Lisa (Kerpoe) for understanding so well and for participating too.

    Sondra, I'm glad you saw it too - and thank you for coming by and leaving a comment.

    Queenie - as always, thank you for your heartfelt participation and continued presence here on my blog.

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  24. Thank you for linking up to TGIFF with such an inspirational piece!

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  25. Kit, the quilt and narrative are VERY powerful. Thank you. I forwarded this blog to a few friends but EVERYONE needs to see this.

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  26. Teresa, Thank you - for commenting, understanding and forwarding. :)

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  27. Art can often speak to us where words may fail......your art did not fail!

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  28. Kit, you have made a beautiful, delicate piece of art to bring light to something very heavy and sad.

    I echo the comments of everyone above...

    Peace and Love.

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  29. Such a moving blog post. Thank you for translating such difficult and heartfelt emotions into such a powerful art piece.

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  30. Here in Uk it appalled us too. I watched the parents, with such dignity seeking explanation and rightly, retribution.
    I cant help but think it has as much to do with the fact that you have direct access to guns but sadly, bad people will get guns, even if they weren't legalised.
    Trayvon will come to symbolise so much I suspect.
    I too hope his identity isnt overwhelmed by the importance of finding out why he was killed in that meaningless way.
    And I truly hope that justice happens.
    Colour shouldnt matter but all too sadly and unfairly, it still does.

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  31. There is no question that Trayvonn Martin's death was a tragedy. But how do you know what happened that night? He was just a child going to get Skittles for his brother? Maybe, but he was also 6'2" tall and over 200 pounds, not outwardly a child. Comparing his wrongful death to unspeakably brutal murder of 13 year old Emmett Till is disrespectful to Till's memory and to the U.S. Civil rights fight that followed to ensure that there will be no more lynchings like Till's.

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  32. BeverlyAnne, apparently, if a black male is 6'2" that somehow means he's scary and is therefore eligible to be killed?

    My sons have been over six feet since they were 13 - so by your reasoning, they weren't "children" at 13, 14, 15, 16 because they happened to be tall and well made?

    We don't know everything that happened that night - but we do know that Mr. Zimmerman was told to NOT go after Trayvon Martin, we do know that he got out of his car, armed to go after him anyway, we do know that Trayvon was unarmed and we do know that he is dead and Mr. Zimmerman is not.

    We also know that though Mr. Zimmerman claims he was injured by Trayvon - severely enough that he used deadly force to protect himself, Mr. Zimmerman did not seek medical attention, nor did the police tell him to seek medical attention.

    We DO know that Trayvon's body lay in the morgue for three days as a "John Doe" and that they tested his corpse for drug use while his parents and family had reported him as as missing and desperately looked for him; and we DO know that the police had his cell phone and could have, at the very least, looked at who he last called and said, "do you know this person is dead?"

    We do know that under the "stand your ground" law, Mr. Zimmerman was not even arrested for more than 40 days after he shot Trayvon Martin, and yet, Marissa Alexander, a black woman who shot her husband after he tried to strangle her, received 20 years in jail under the same law.

    This is indeed a case for civil rights and I'm quite sure Emmett Till and his family would agree.

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  33. Powerful stuff Kit. amazing work.

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  34. Linda D29.4.12

    It is a powerful piece. I am glad for the artist statement that explains your thoughts and feelings as you made it. We DO need to always search out hearts when we interact with others to see if we are also guilty of jumping to negative conclusions about people before we know them.
    Linda D

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  35. I'm sitting here fighting back the tears because such a piece of art needs to be made. It's powerful and I thought so even before I read all you wrote about it, not connecting it to the recent case.

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  36. Kit, you have created a very powerful and emotional piece of art. I do hope that you can join our group of artists (Fiber Artists for Hope), that have made and are currently creating more quilts inspired by this and even more senseless killings.

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  37. I have only just been able to read your blog Kit and it is absolutely powerful. This story was all over the news in Barbados but I have heard very little of it since I have returned to UK. You are doing the right thing to bring it to the forefront. I too have a son and I sometimes worry about how he is percieved by others who do not know that he is a gentle, caring, helpful,sometimes shy young man.

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  38. Faith, thank you for stopping by and adding your thoughts to the conversation.

    Diana, thank you! I'm hoping to join you too - just waiting for the "official" invitation. Looking forward to "seeing" you there. :)

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  39. Kit, those words really haunt me. The first thing I think of is that those a**holes who killed those black children were never convicted of those crimes. They got away. I really hope it's not true in Trayvon's case. I guess it's a good thing I'm not going to be on the jury for Zimmerman's trial.

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  40. Bless you, Kit; I want to understand. I am not black. There was one black girl in my high school -- for one year -- in a tiny town in SW Quebec. I am Anglo; I was in Montreal during the War Measures Act. That is the closest I come to palpable hatred/mistrust/discrimination. That, and the fact that though a Christian, I married a Jew, in a church, on a Saturday. I don't know your pain, or that of your community. I hold no animosity or prejudice, so I really don't 'get' it -- meaning, I don't understand why black people (or any other non-Caucasians) are mistrusted/disliked/whatever. I just don't understand it, but I want to empathize, and want you to consider yourself loved.

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  41. Anonymous24.5.12

    Kit, Thankyou for blessing me with this peace knowing that we are heard all over the world through art.I pray for all Black boys and men in America because I know what it means to be DWB. Blessings to you Kit, Cleta

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  42. Anonymous24.7.12

    Hi there, Wanted to thank you for stopping by my page. Had to come check you out on your page and WOW! so wonderful and moving. Makes you remember and think. Thank you for the work you doing.

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  43. Thank you anonymous people! :)

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  44. Kit, I hadn't seen this piece before, but it is incredible. As someone who is white, I know that I can't truly understand the discrimination you talk about, but I certainly appreciate what you're saying and I'm shocked to learn that you would have a term like DWB. What a sad statement on society! It saddens and frustrates me that a young boy like this is cut down in the prime of his life simply because of some asshole who can't see past skin colour.

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