The murder of Trayvon Martin & the subsequent acquittal of the man who murdered him was the formal spark of the Black Lives Matter movement in 7 years ago. In reality, the seed of this movement was planted centuries ago. Black resistance has necessarily persisted in lock step with the evolving forms of systemic oppression White America has leveled against Black people...from chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, mass incarceration, & police brutality. The long-standing failure of White America to honestly recognize & effectively deal with the systemic racism it has harbored made the Black Lives Matter movement an inevitability.
The seed has sprouted.
This portrait series puts everyday faces to the Black Lives Matter movement that has surged to the forefront of American culture in early May of this year after yet another murder of a Black person by police, this time in broad daylight, in public, on camera, for 8 minutes & 46 seconds. The response has been immense. Black Lives Matter may amount to the single largest movement in United States' history with millions of people participating in protests. Nearly half of all US counties have experienced Black Lives Matter protests. Nearly all are majority White. For many participants, this was their first protest experience.
Despite these historically large numbers, however, the majority of White America remains on the sidelines. Movements, for those on the outside, can often seem abstract & distant. The typical imagery of protests & resistance is largely & almost necessarily foreign to them. Those on the sidelines often do not see themselves in those depicted in typical protest imagery. The imagery in this series parts from this, both in presentation & purpose. Each participant in this project is an activist within or a genuine ally of the Black Lives Matter movement. These portraits were taken at a public park in downtown Phoenix, AZ where some early Black Lives Matter protests began in June of this year. Each participant was asked prior the portrait session to complete in writing the statement "I AM," describing him or herself within the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, systemic racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, as well as the Corona Virus pandemic, unprecedented economic inequality, mass unemployment, & social unrest. More than one hundread participants are intimately revealing how they see themselves & how they feel within the current American experience. These are NOT photos of protests, but they ARE protest photos. These portraits are an attempt to reveal the humanity & dignity of the Black Lives Matter movement that typical protest photos often fail to do. Each portrait is a unique individual. Collectively they are the Black Lives Matter movement. Each person is simultaneously ordinary & extraordinary. There are no distractions in these photos, nothing to hind behind. Each person in these portraits is you looking back. Their humanity recognizes & demands yours in return. You matter to them.
They exist & resist for Black lives to do the same.