The death of George Floyd launched a movement to stand up, speak up, and take action against racism in our communities. Watching the recent attacks on the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities illustrated a harsh reminder that racism is still prevalent in today’s world. Artists have always used art to help heal communities and tell stories ignored by mainstream channels. More than ever in our society, we look to those talents to soothe us, help heal us, and create opportunities for internal growth and dialogue to move us toward a strong, united nation.
Artists demonstrating anti-racism through art
Throughout our country, artists have conveyed their experiences growing up and living with racism in America and created pieces that combat today’s violence against people of color:
- In our backyard of Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser supported local artists and enlisted the help of the D.C. Public Works Department to paint Black Lives Matter on the two blocks near Lafayette Sq and the White House. The June 2020 action was a direct response to actions and speeches from former President Donald Trump. In May 2021, the Mayor commissioned the plaza as a permanent art installation.
- Monyee Chau created inspirational posters in response to a string of violent racists acts against Asian-owned businesses in Seattle’s Chinatown, to bolster the spirits of the community residents. Chau’s posters incorporate historical facts and resources for those affected by the violence. In a gesture of solidarity for the whole community, Chau created a second poster after the death of George Floyd. The piece featured a black panther in a taijitu with a tiger symbolizing AAPI’s community decision to stand with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
- In Fairfax County, local artist and George Mason University graduate Sheena-Lee Henry explored the continuing challenges and fears that many young black men face in America in her series of mural pieces titled, “Brown Boys”.
- The country marked the one-year anniversary of the brutal killing of Breonna Taylor while she was sleeping on March 13, 2021. Artists Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Amy Sherald’s portraits of Breonna Taylor celebrate the life of the young African American woman while mourning the loss of her future that was taken from her and her loved ones..
Art reflects the happiness, joy, sadness, and dark racial history of our culture and society. Today’s artists are creating art that challenges our minds and helps encourage us to address the injustices that we face. Even within the arts community, we must strive to grow by acknowledging past inequities and work together to build a strong community for everyone.