The midterm proposal was originally the creation of American Ghettos, however upon further research into the multiple uprisings that have occurred, the topic shifted to the uprisings and the lack of equal media coverage about the uprisings.
In the midterm proposal the question came up as to why the top half images are not recognized as easily as the violent images of looting and destruction left after the LA uprisings. It is an often overlooked and neglected history until you either come across these pages of history in a Afro-American Community course or go to a Black History website because the backstory is never discussed or mentioned in any newsreels, or history books.
The following articles covering the ’65 LA, ’67 Newark and ’67 Detroit Uprisings are all questionable in title. Los Angeles: Why?, Newark: The Predictable Insurrection and Negro Revolt: The Flames Spread; Why? Why not? Predictable? Then why wasn’t stopped? Negro Revolt? Revolt against what? Looking further into media coverage of these uprisings the same, or similar, method was used to poorly investigate these events; negroes are revolting in the black area of the city, setting fires, looting and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage. There was not a single word in any of the newsreel about Marques Frye (LA ’65) or John Smith (Newark ’67) or others that sparked these uprisings, with an exception to Rodney King. It is outraging however it was transferred to inspiration in the creation of the following pieces. Mr. Officer General Grand Wizard President (2014, Acrylic on canvas, 20×24) inspired by May Steven’s Big Daddy Paper Doll.
What is being expressed is portions of past aggressors, not just in a physical or literal sense but in every aspect. The most obvious is the police badge symbolizing police forces in black communities who they’re suppose to protect and serve not harass and arrest. The general signifies the segregation of the armed forces until Truman passed Executive Order No. 9981 on June 26th, 1948 but just like every other attempt of integration in the past it was faced with resistance; complete integration would not be seen until the Korean War when “heavy casualties forced segregated units to merge for survival” (trumanlibrary.org). It is also noteworthy to state that the Korean War began in 1950 2 years AFTER the order was passed and ended in 1953 (history.com) so there is a possible 2-5 gap between the ‘forced’ integration; the general also represents the lack of respect and equality towards returning Black vets from both World Wars and Vietnam. The Grand Wizard is a title given to KKK leaders and is obviously represented by the white hood and another obvious physical aggressor. The suit and tie and the crossed hands resting on the table is to denote a presidential figure (not any in particular as there were many different presidents during the multiple uprisings) but it is there to represent someone in a position of power that did not/has not/would not step in to the atrocities of a country that was founded on the principles of liberty and ‘justice for all’.
Frye ’65, Smith ’67 & King ’92 (2014, marker on illustration board, 20×30) inspired by Ben Shahn’s Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner (1965).
The three young men were a part of the Freedom Summer movement to help register African Americans to vote, and after an unlawful arrest, were handed over to the KKK and killed (blog.aaa.si.edu). The most destructive is often whats remembered and what LA in ’65 and ’92 share with Newark in ’67 was a similar spark; a young black man being assaulted by police. Shahn’s simplified and hand drawn rendering of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner had a hand in the drawings of Marques Frye, John Smith and Rodney King as well.
Este No Es La Vida (2014, Acrylic on canvas, 18×24) inspired by Rene Magritte (1948, Oil on canvas, 25×37).
Magritte’s artwork is a pun on multiple levels, the work is literally not a pipe although it is a painting of a pipe. The handcuffed hands along with the text ‘este no es la vida’ (being that I’m Dominican). A life behind bars is literally not a life and the fact that a criminal record severally puts a strain on African Americans, it also has to do with mass incarceration and the prison system however that is a different story.
Ghetto Uprisings: Downfall of Black Hoods (2014, Acrylic on canvas, 18×24).
The only piece that wasn’t directly inspired by another artwork, this diptych is suppose to represent the underlining causes behind a majority of these uprisings. Police brutality played a role in sparking the uprisings but there were also a multitude of others including political exclusion, urban renewal, unemployment, poverty, housing and demographic change (assatashakur.org). It covers the summer of ’67 when both the Newark and Detroit uprisings occurred. The police badge with “protect” and “serve” on the badge represent the lack of duty police do in black communities, obviously police brutality as well. The protests with a cropped signed of “No Justice No Peace” symbolizes social inequality and the black struggle. The opposing black and white arrows pointing to ‘white school’ and ‘nigga school’ represents the segregation and lack of equal treatment of black schools. The flow of black strokes are suppose to be super highways which which represent the urban renewal or gentrification that was being planned in cities like Newark and Detroit. The other half is simply just fire and chaos; the central figure bypasses the first half without noticing all the causes. The black line is a timeline of uprisings discussed excluding Chicago ’19 and Tulsa ’21 because their sparks differ.
If these images do not seem familiar, there should be no guilt felt, Tulsa, OK made it an effort to hide this atrocity from their history. Instead of being sparked by police brutality this was sparked by Sarah Page accusing Dick Rowland of rape which led to Rowland’s arrest; when talk of lynching Rowland surfaced the black community came to defend him (montgomerycollege.edu). There is an extreme effort in either masking the causes of these uprisings because America isn’t owning up to it. The Black Struggle was not a ‘American’ problem and is forced to be seen as a ‘Black’ problem until it forces itself to be noticed however even with that it is twisted and perverted to represent a lack of progression in the black community.
Imagery & Culture