“Whose Streets?” spotlights the turbulent grassroots protests that followed the 2014 shooting of an unarmed African-American teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis made “Whose Streets?” to tell the stories of the Ferguson uprising that the mainstream media was missing.
The power of art to effect fundamental social change will be on display in Los Angeles this week as a major 10-day “pop-up” exhibit of visual art and accompanying performances, and workshops opens Friday at a former movie theater in the city’s Baldwin Hills neighborhood.
Called Manifest: Justice, the event will showcase over 250 works from more than 150 artists, along with 30 community events that focus on race and criminal justice reform, inequality, healthy communities and immigration reform. It is being produced with support from the California Endowment and Amnesty International.
Drawn from across the country, the list of participants includes such marquee artist-activists as the godfather of guerilla poster caricaturists, Robbie Conal, and Obama ‘HOPE’ agit-provocateur Shepard Fairey, as well as a host of up-and-coming street muralists and wheatpaste artists, inducling the likes of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Favianna Rodriguez and Jesse Hazelip. Also on hand will be big-league gallerists such as collagist-photographer Lyle Ashton Harris and painter-sculptor Eric Fischl.
“Racism doesn’t take a break when it rains and neither will we,” Priscilla Ocen, a professor at Loyola Law School, announced over a loudspeaker outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday. Before her stood a crowd of about 200 people, mostly lawyers and law students, who braved a downpour to protest state violence from South L.A. to New York City, culminating in a four-minute-and-thirty-second “die-in” — representing the four-and-a-half hours that police in Ferguson, Missouri, let Michael Brown’s dead body lie in a street.
“I think it’s a really important thing to stand up to the injustice that we’re seeing around the country,” said Mona Iman, director of Taslimi Foundation, which works to defend human rights in Iran. “This wave of killings of unarmed black men is just so disturbing,” she told me, “and when you feel the frustration and you feel the anger at what’s happening in the world,
Last week Chicago Bulls basketball star Derrick Rose wore a T-shirt in warm-ups that read “I Can’t Breathe,” protesting the non-indictment of a New York police officer whose chokehold killed Eric Garner. Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James wore a similar shirt the next night, telling a reporter who asked him after the game if his action was a “Cavaliers thing,” that no, it was a “worldly thing.”
A few days before these pro basketball players’ protests, five members of the St. Louis Rams football team ran out of the team dressing room before kick-off with their hands raised above their heads, a reference to the “don’t shoot” gesture that protesters have been using after the shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Predictable outrage ensued. The St. Louis Police Officers Association issued a statement saying the organization was “…profoundly disappointed” with the five players,
A year and a half ago, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post that I called “Will the Killing of Trayvon Martin Catalyze a Movement Like Emmett Till Did?” I pointed out that Rosa Parks was thinking about Emmett Till — a 14-year-old African American who was brutally murdered by two white thugs in Mississippi in August 1955 — when she refused to move to the back of the bus in December of that year and sparked the Montgomery bus boycott which, in turn, triggered the civil rights movement.
At the time, I hoped the answer to my question would be yes, but I wasn’t sure. I wondered whether the protests over the murder of Trayvon Martin, and the acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman, would coalesce into a sustained movement.
Now we can see that, indeed, a movement for social and racial justice has emerged from the Trayvon Martin murder and more recent events —
The police stop a young man. An officer shoots, killing him. The officer claims self-defense, that the killing was warranted.
The community, having endured years of unequal treatment at the hands of law enforcement and other municipal agencies, responds in anger. Protests ensue. Hard feelings persist, as do demands for law-enforcement accountability.
Sound familiar? No, this is not the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The young man in question was Augustin Salcido, 17, and the incident occurred in Los Angeles more than six decades earlier. The Internet did not exist at that time and local television audiences were miniscule, so the Civil Rights Congress of Los Angeles produced a pamphlet, Justice for Salcido. In its introduction, author and civil rights advocate Carey McWilliams described the killing as part of a historical pattern of “continued suppression of the Mexican minority.”
“I question America ” — the famous words spoken by civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer 50 years ago this week at the tumultuous Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City — is a fitting reflection of the soul-searching that the country is once again going through in the wake of the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri.
To understand both the progress America has made, and the many challenges it now faces, in terms of racial justice, it is useful to remind ourselves of the battle that occurred a half century ago and the life of Ms. Hamer, a sharecropper and activist from the Mississippi Delta who galvanized the country with her stirring words and her remarkable courage.
In her testimony before the credentials committee at the Democratic Party’s convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Hamer explained why the committee should recognize the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party over the state’s segregated official party delegation.