Open Letter to Maine Artists and Citizens:
Four Hundred Years, 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds
As artists and members of the Union of Maine Visual Artists, we vigorously condemn the murder of George Floyd. We extend our sympathies to Mr. Floyd’s family and friends and to all those in the black community who have lost loved ones at the hands of racist officers and vigilantes. We further stand in solidarity with those protesters in the streets and elsewhere who call for an end to racism.
The unbearable weight of racism and the savagery of racists are deeply embedded in the fabric of American society. The cold-blooded murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis illustrates this. Three fellow police officers stood by as white officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Racism is apparently so embedded in the culture of law enforcement in Minneapolis that police fraternity carries more weight than the life of a black man.
As the history of racism in America echos in the street these days, the gruesome video of Mr. Floyd’s murder recalls photographs of southern lynchings of black men and women. The lifeless body of a black person hangs from a tree while whites below smile for the camera. George Floyd’s death also echoes the metal face masks used against enslaved African peoples, condemning them to starvation.
The memory of Emmett Till rises up. He was a 14-year-old black child brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955. He was found in a lake, naked with a heavy fan around his neck. Birmingham police chief Bo Connor comes to mind, too. He turned police attack dogs and high-powered fire hoses on peaceful black civil rights protesters in 1963. More recently, Eric Garner’s murder echos down the street where Floyd was murdered. Garner was choked to death by a white police officer in New York in 2014.
For four hundred years white society has pressed its knee against the throat of blacks in America. Whites who do nothing to end systemic racism, like the three officers who watched the murder of Floyd, are complicit in destroying the lives of their fellow black citizens. Indeed, inaction has already had numerous murderous consequences. We urge our fellow Maine artists to speak out, to create work that contributes to our collective understanding of our society’s racist foundation.
We applaud the Americans who have flooded into the nation’s streets, who have risen against systemic racism. The longer they occupy the streets the greater pressure they place on American institutions, the more they push racist practices, policies and agencies into the national dialogue, the more they overwhelm racist voices trying to diminish, deflect and deny an ongoing national crisis. In the end these activists – from black, brown, indigenous and white communities – could well play a critical role in defeating the most racist presidency in decades.
John Ripton David Estey Michelle Leier Norma Johnsen
Kris Onuf Anne Strout Pamela Hetherly Jane Page-Conway
Ann Tracy Janice Moore Dave Berrang Jen Joaquin
Liz Prescott Ann Deutsch Amy Bellezza Arthur Nichols
Nora Tryon Gregg Harper Christine Higgins Jacqueline Hawkings
Daniel Minter Chris Reed Greg Burns Karen Adrienne
Natasha Mayers Rabee Kiwan Peter Haller Abby Shahn
Dave Wade Tracy Ginn Ken Kohl Titi De Baccarat
Jim Kelly Susan Smith Lesley MacVane Leecia Price
Karolyn Greenstreet Anita Clearfield Pete Gorski Renuka O’Connell
Michael Torlen William Hessian Mark Barnette Roland Salazar Rose
Endorsed by UMVA artists across the state from Kennebunk to Portland to Solon to Camden to Guilford to Brunswick to Orono….