I recently created a short, personal documentary about Unarmed for the YouTube Originals special Black Renaissance, which will be hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama. The show streams February 26th.
Unarmed has moved from an online-only art project to a full-time thing over the last six months. Here’s a short essay telling the story, with an introduction to my new collaborators.
I planned the tail end of the Tour to be open-ended and have been exploring open spaces. These photos come from Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. I’ve crossed the borders between the three, crossed and crossed back.
There has really been too much Unarmed news to list in a simple post like this, but the big item is that I spent most of October taking the series on the road. Louisville, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Denver. I had community events in some cities and went straight guerrilla in others. We made the 11-o’clock news in Louisville and a room-full of people cry in Milwaukee.
Before leaving, I made this short documentary about the project, which is really a cutdown of this podcast interview. Got it? Oh, and the grant from V-Day? Then the tour through these cities strafed by the trauma of racist police violence, and all the attendant grief, anger, and resolve. There was a gallery show in Denver and an article in Denverite. Hundreds of pictures. Hours of video. Like I said.
The top two images are from Louisville, the bottom one is from Kenosha.
I wrote a lengthy post on social media outlining the separate but intertwined history of Unarmed with my film 72 Hours, please read it. In brief, I’ll say that having the top cultural institution in Brooklyn stage an outdoor screening of my film – a screening where I’ll also present the art project I’ve been nursing along these seven years – is a dream scenario. There were a couple missed connections with BAM along the way, which makes this all the more sweet.
See you on Thursday.
I posted the first Unarmed jersey to social media in August 2013 after Trayvon Martin’s killer went unpunished. That’s seven years of this shit. 14 jerseys, so far. We’ll be moving into production soon. For updates on the project visit unarmed.co.
We installed the full suite of Unarmed jerseys on Lafayette Street between Houston and Canal this past Friday. See pics of the entire run here, or, better yet, head over to Manhattan to see them in person.
These are dark times for the empire. UNARMED made its public debut on Flatbush Avenue last week. Installing the prints and seeing the reaction of fellow Brooklynites was among the most gratifying experiences I’ve had as an artist. Over the weekend another black man was killed by a police officer, this time in Atlanta. The killing of Rayshard Brooks, 27, comes right on the heels of the news of the hanging deaths of Robert Fuller, 24, and Malcolm Harsh, 38, a week before that. It’s all a bit much. Making these pieces is part of my own healing process and I hope that can be true for others.
UPDATE – ABC7 NY ran a story about Unarmed on Thursday:
Believe me, the last thing I’d rather be doing right now is designing another jersey and posting it on this website. I started this project in 2013. That’s a lot of tears spilled over Adobe Illustrator. A lot of marches and grief. And so I let a few go by – Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor – sounds so callous, doesn’t it? But isn’t that what we all do?
Last year around this time I interviewed Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s twin sister, for a documentary I was directing about a separate topic related to race. The Terence Crutcher jersey was the last one I designed in this series, four years ago, on my birthday. Dr. Crutcher spoke powerfully in our interview about how she didn’t want her life to be about her brother’s killing, but how we must find the strength to raise our voices in the midst of pain.
And so my fingers quiver once again as I select fonts and Google details – did George Floyd have a nickname? where should it appear on the jersey? Bullets were easier to make into a design motif – stars – but how does one represent a knee and the crushing weight of racism? With a glyph? A line weight?
TO PROTECT WITH COURAGE
TO SERVE WITH COMPASSION
That is the motto of the Minneapolis Police Department. If you didn’t know that, know this. George Floyd – Big Floyd – was UNARMED.
Full project archive at unarmed.co #BlackLivesMatter
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the Achilles tendon can withstand more than 1000 pounds of pressure. On June 10th, 2019, the Achilles tendon of basketball star Kevin Durant snapped during game 5 of the NBA finals. I believe that the Internet snapped it, a month after it took down another colossus, HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Read full essay here.