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#BlackLivesMatter: Our Community Responds

Artists respond creatively and critically to the non-indictments in the Eric Garner and Mike Brown killings

Image by Hollis King.


We asked our community for reflections on the #BlackLivesMatter movement and responses to the recent news of non-indictment in the Eric Garner and Mike Brown killings.


Below, you’ll find responses by:


LeConté Dill

Rudy Shepherd

Sasha Phyars-Burgess

Hollis King

Aisha Cousins

Dennis RedMoon Darkeem

Katherine Toukhy

And, additional readings and resources


LeConté Dill, Board Member:


another blackgirl seeking, another blackgirl stranded
for Renisha McBride

Nineteen year old Rashida keeps checking
Google News
Amassing all of the ways
Media slice
Roll dice
Our names
Our bio
a nuisance
painted over


We must rally for our own
We always have


Rashida checks her GPS
Gas gauge
Tread on her tires
She also is urban
Suburban streets get her lost
and anxious
She also drives hard
and aimless
to keep calm
and make time to charge her cell phone
that stay dyin


Police and Prosecutors play tag
Reminded that this is a game
And you never get to play
But you’re always It


Rashida kicks her legs when she sleeps
Sistagirl found on a porch
Heard “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you”
every Sunday
Heard wrong


“She was shot in the front of the face, near the mouth”


We must rally for our own
We always have


–LeConte Dill



Rudy Shepherd, 2006 Resident & Special Edition Print artist:

Garner and BrownPortraits of Eric Garner and Mike Brown



Sasha Phyars-Burgess, 2014 Fellow





Hollis King, 2012 Resident

This piece is a tribute to all the young people taking to the street and holding on to the light in peace and love.



Aisha Cousins, 2013 Resident & Teaching Artist:

“Lemonade for Letters” is a project I created that turns a lemonade stand into a tool for community organizing. When I tested it in Crown Heights, it generated a very productive intergenerational dialogue between people ranging in age from elementary school students to grandparents.

The project can be remixed for current events by using news articles of your choice, substituting warm drinks or baked goods for lemonade, and/or shifting the location to highly trafficked indoor areas such as school cafeterias, church basements, etc.

lemonade-stand_ys-letter_inside-at-72dpiClick here for the performance score of Lemonade for Letters.



Dennis Darkeem, 2014 Resident:

“I wanted to share some of my art students’ posters from Junior High School 127 in the Bronx.”



Katherine Toukhy, 2014 Fellow:

If you are an arts educator or a person who works with students, it is important to know how to bring up conversations about race in the classroom at historically charged moments like these. But it’s not easy, and no one has all the answers.

So last Monday Dec, at City College, arts professionals and educators met to strategize the facilitation of art-making activities that can strengthen students’ capacity to voice themselves on these very real issues. Educators discussed the different kinds of challenges faced in settings like Title One (underserved) public schools, or private schools and museum programs, with ethnically diverse groups, or more homogenous groups. There is no “one size fits all’ solution; but it became apparent that navigating these discussions takes a good amount of knowing your students, providing a safe space and framework for real conversations, and knowing how to challenge them by asking good questions and exposing them to relevant art and literature that provide catalysts for exploration.


Here is a rundown of basic themes and activity ideas that came up in the forum:


  • Know your students. Build trust and community as a group first.
  • Get real with students. Mine their minds.
  • Prompt them to answer: My greatest fear is… My greatest hope is…
  • Don’t preach. Guide students to their own answers.
  • Use more questions than answers, via the Socratic method.
  • Use your art medium to enact: “What does community look/feel/sound like?”
  • Use your art medium and senses to enact how different feelings can be represented: i.e. color to represent anger or loud drum beats to represent violence.
  • Educators in predominantly white classrooms reported that many kids fail to recognize that racism still exists, because we are supposedly living in a “post-racial” post-slavery society. Give them the language to understand different levels of racism: internalized, interpersonal, and institutional racisms.
  • “Institutional racism” is the way racial inequity is covertly or overtly perpetuated by institutions and systems in our society (like schools, prisons, the media, housing, etc).
  • Border Crossers is an important organization with more resources on this topic:
  • Provide nuanced representations of people of color (which educators agreed were very difficult to find in literature, at a middle school level).
  • Stay away from binary notions of identity.
  • Children’s book illustrator and writer, Christopher Myers wrote a strong article about this after the Zimmerman case
  • To introduce the topic, use an age-appropriate image, artwork, text, or quote.
  • Ask students to list: what I know; what I don’t know; what I wish I knew.
  • Provide some context for the source you are using.
  • On police brutality, this video is visually rich and provides context: “How Ferguson showed us the truth about police”
  • Open up questions of deep topics like “power” and “violence” by putting up large chart paper with words or phrases like “What is power?” around the room.
  • Ask students to brainstorm or define these concepts as they walk around the room and talk it out with each other.
  • Ask students to create an artistic response based off of engaging with these concepts and source images/texts.
  • End a session with “what I know” lists, or a “next steps” list.
  • Create group activities that emphasize working together.
  • When presenting images or texts of political movements, emphasize the collective action (as opposed to the individualistic hero narrative) required to make change happen.
  • Connect them with other kids working through these issues.


More readings and resources:

  • This Stops Today is doing 11 days of actions, and many are arts based. So if anyone is planning an event by Dec. 20, they could align themselves with this org and their demands”—via Nancy Agabian (2013 Fellow)



  • Another resource is Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen, and her recent PBS interview“—LeConté Dill (Board Member)







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