The Modern Civil Rights Movement: Life after George Floyd

Since 2016 the worlds eyes have watched American police departments, justify excessive force onto black bodies. It seems like once a month there is a new case of an unarmed black person dying in police custody that we have to rally behind. As exhausted as we are and as hard it is to muster surprise by the callousness in these deaths, we know that we have to keep trying.

Since 2016 the worlds eyes have watched American police departments, justify excessive force onto black bodies. It seems like once a month there is a new case of an unarmed black person dying in police custody that we have to rally behind. As exhausted as we are and as hard it is to muster surprise by the callousness in these deaths, we know that we have to keep trying. Three deaths caught the attention of the world this year because we weren’t too tired. Changes began to happen this year because we would not give up and throughout all of the chaos, there is more hope now than we’ve had in years for progression.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Judge, Jury, and Executioners

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.

Quote by (NY Times)

In the moments following his death, a number of things happened that people of color understand very well. The common excuses that follow police killings began to float around. Until the video surfaced and the full truth was shown, George Floyd’s case was threatened to be ignored, like the many that had come before his.

Negative comments about ethnic groups are unacceptable, hence speakers manage them by using particular types of languge, such as hedging or minimising, and other strategies, such as justifications, excuses and blaming the victim

Quote from the book Discourse & Society Vol. 23, No.1– Sage Publication, Ltd

In the case of George Floyd we heard the common phrases:

“He must have been resisting arrest.”

“He must have been violent.”

“Why didn’t he just listen to the police?”

When the chilling video was released by a bystander showing a compliant man begging for his life. The collective disgust in a person who could slowly kill a man whos lasts words were cries to his deceased mother sparked an outrage that demolished barriers between race, religion, ethnicities, and nations.

In the United States, American protests had an unprecedented number of young white paticipants. Larger than the U.S. has ever seen for an African American cause. These young activists were energized and articulate about their understanding of the struggles black people face in the U.S. and eager to absorb knowlege about anything that they did not understand. New York Times article One Big Difference About George Floyd Protests: Many White Faces explores this very concept, they wrote:

It is not just protests. White Americans are going through a wave of self-examination, buying books about racism, talking to black friends, and arguing within their own families. Still, how much of this translates into broader change remains to be seen.

Narratives and Identity

On March 13 Breonna Taylor, a 26 year old EMT, was fatally shot in the middle of the night by three police officers with a no knock warrent. Her apartment became linked to a narcotics investigation, and although the alleged drug dealer had already been arrested, the police officers came to her apartment following a lead that the young EMT’s apartment had recieved a package from the drug dealer at some point of time in the past.

Her case reached national heights three months after her death due to the George Floyd/ Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and the BLM movement. Until then her case had been sitting in a stagnant place. Her incident report had even listed that there was no forced entry and that Breonna Taylor had not suffered any injuries.

Although the police that murdered her have not been arrested, the Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously to ban no-knock search warrants and the detective that lead the case has been fired from the department.

The suppression of incidents revolving around the black community and the police is nothing new. Another case that has recently reached national headlines is Elijah Mcclain‘s. He was a 23 year old who had been walking to a convienience store in August 2019. He was apprihended by police officers for wearing a ski mask and looking suspicious. When he began hysterically begging for his life during a choke hold, he was shot with an excessive dosage of ketamine and died of a heart attack. His story is only seeing the light of day because of the current BLM movement as well.

Questions of police officer’s lack of deescalation tactics durring altercations with African American people has been on the table for years. The fear that they feel towards black people exists because of long held naratives passed down since the Reconstruction Period and little has been done since to change the fable of the savage black man.

Investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote an article named Lynching and the Excuse for it in 1896 that holds some errie parallels to police killings today.

“Let us assume that the southern citizens who take part in and abets the lynching of negroes honestly believes that that is the only successful method of dealing with a certain class of crimes.”

“lynchings are the desperate effort of the southern people to protect their women from black monsters, and while the large majority condem lynching, the condemnation is tempered with a plea for the lyncher— that human nature gives way under such awful provocation and that the mob, insane for the moment, must be pitied as well as condemned.

We see this pitying condemnation every time a police officer goes to trial and gets aquitted from a crime we all know they commited for the sole reason that they were “afraid for their lives”. This narrative is destructive and robs people of color of their right to be innocent before proven guilty. It robs them of their individuality and identity. How utterly unfair must it feel for a person with power to take your life simply because they were afraid of you before you’ve ever had a conversation?

While the change that has come from the BLM movement has been a great step in the right direction, it is a far cry from an end all be all. Yes, it is amazing that this era has ushered in a more introspective society and now that more people are questioning their prejudices and taking action against oppressors, much needed legislations are being passed. I just find it hard to be satisfied when I know that as long as there are generalized narratives being spread of the “scary black people” there will be police officers that “fear for their lives” when they come in contact us armed or unarmed, hostile or docile.

Africaspan: A Growth of Diasporic Awareness


Disclaimer:

This is a post about my ongoing journey to learn about Pan Africanism through journals, articles, literature, and videos for an African American Literature class that I am taking. I am by no means an expert in the study but I hope you all enjoy my findings and journey as much as I am. If at anytime I present false or off information please let me know, I am definitely open to correction. Some one else may be struggling in the same areas.

Reach one teach one!

What does it really mean to be a black person in the diasporic context?

This question came up for me over and over as I researched for this project. How could something that plays such a big part of my life have such an elusive answer?

To be honest, although I picked this the topic of Pan Africanism, I often felt apprehensive to dig and learn more about it. I started to feel an anger that refused to fade away. Opening my eyes to racism across the diaspora in turn opened my heart to more pain without any sufficient outlet.

Well, I guess this is my outlet. The act of letting anybody curious enough to read this understand how I got to where I am now.

Since the first Pan African Congress assembled in 1919, a hum of intensity has surrounded black identity. Black people felt more inclined to voice their introspection. Questions emerged like:

Will the world ever view us the way that we view ourselves?

And

Should we wait for the day or create our own pockets of society and determine the perceptions of ourselves solely? These questions stood out to me as I read about the complexities of Pan Africanism.

You see, there’s been quiet flame consistently burning in my chest. I often fear it will grow hotter, crack louder, and spread past my ability to contain with smiles and pleasantries. It has always been there but it was dimmer before because I had always felt alone with it. It is something that we as African Americans usually do not talk about. But as I read more and more from these unapologetic African Diasporic literary heavyweights, I realized that this anger is very much apart of our identity.

Martin Luther King once said that “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” I agree with the notion that in order to truly extract prolonged change across the African diaspora, we would have to band together and demand it.

While trudging through videos and articles recounting countless massacres, wars, and legal battles fought across the world for the justice for people of African descent, one thing came absurdly clear; pain and anger is woven into the way we see the world. One of the best parts I imagine about the Pan African congress was that there was an open space for people to talk about the tribulations that were faced on a daily basis. It was a place that held the opportunity to put some powerful minds together to combat those injustices.

Yet and still the thought of Nationalizing the African Diaspora is terrifying to me. I fear that even if every step taken toward justice was done peacefully, it would be met with anger and violence.

This fear, I realize, is also something that has bleed to me through generational traumas and I suspect it has ripples through the diaspora as well.

I believe that being a black person in the diasporic context means that you have to learn a way to live with those feelings without letting them consume you. It means being constantly reminded that to many your skin is a disposition and either rolling with it in order to fit into society or working against it to create a society worth living in.

So is Pan Africanism the answer?

In a journal article from Cambridge University Press named Challenging a Pan-African Identity: The Autobiographical Writings of Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, and Caryl Phillips Gregory D. Smithers challenges the idea of Pan African Identity by visiting a few of the notions that govern it. What interested me the most in this article was the exploration of African and African American travel writers.

Gregory mentions how black diasporic people have a tendency to either romanticize or resent Africa. Important minds like W.E.B. Du Bois and Maya Angelou both moved to Ghana in search of the true answer of black identity. Du Bois waited until the last two years of his life and Angelou once there found it impossible to assimilate. In a way these contrasts say to me that the grass was not completely greener on the other side.

Realistically speaking, I have to admit that there is absolutely zero perfect things in the world so an entire continent absolutely cannot be, but what does that say about my question of diasporic identities?

This article sent me into so many different directions, looking for the answers to my identity questions. Sadly, I still do not have answers to most of them.

At this moment I feel anxious about wrapping up this post because I have so many more questions and so little answers. I guess this is because I am only at the beginning of my awakening. I realize that I am still finding myself, so how could I possibly gather all of the answers about my black identity in one semester? I am glad I tried because my eyes are now open to so many different strengths and issues across the diaspora. Although these revelations have added a few pounds on my shoulders, they have also gifted me with a community that shares my worry, doubts, anxieties, and sadly neuroticism about the changes that need to happen and how to go about them.

RAW: Opportunities Made for Artists by Artists

To kick off the Tenacity series, I attended the annual RAW art show Magnify.

And wow!

It was an outstanding time!

Originated in 2005, the RAW Art Organization, a promotional platform that prides themselves on being made for artists by artists, showcases indie creatives in art, film, fashion, music, performing arts, hair, makeup, and photography. The RAW Artist Organization operates in over 65 cities across the US, Australia, Canada, and the UK.

To find an event in a city near you please visit http://www.rawartists.org/


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The First Impression

“I recognized from the way everyone was dressed heading towards the entrance that this was going to be a real treat.” My boyfriend David describes in our post-interview. We stood in line with patrons clad in dress suits, casual wear, tribal wraps, and costumes. People from all walks of life met at the venue hoping to come across a piece of art that they would not be able to leave without.

Inside, every artist had their own station where they displayed their talents. Most of the art displayed that night was also posted on the website. Anxious patrons like myself who had bought their tickets in advance were gifted plenty of time to run to the website, sneaking prospective peaks at pieces while anticipating the event. So accordingly, I spent most of the first hour at the event itching to meet the artists of my favorite paintings. As the budding journalist that I am, I came prepared with questions and to my surprise, most of the artists were kind and receptive.

As I walked around the venue gawking at beautiful paintings and pictures, and fashion (Oh My!) I found a few creations that required more context. The interviews were recorded on the memo app on my cell (which was surprisingly clear.) but I have not found an app that will allow me to cut out all of my stuttering, fumbling, hot messes yet so I will spare you all from that…  This time.

Dose of Dopeness

One of my favorite artists of the night was Dose of Dopeness (Vernon Strain). I was drawn to his art station by his pieces featuring African American women depicted as goddess figures and queens. I admired his ability to capture the beauty of the African American culture in a vibrant and colorful manner.

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(Dose of Dopeness’s holds a piece in progress to show his signature “Melanin Drip” which he uses to portray having  melanin being poured onto the people in his drawings.)

As a self-taught artist that has been working at this craft since the age of three, he draws inspiration from the people, music, and emotions surrounding him.

ME: How do you use music to draw inspiration for your drawings?

VS: Whatever the feeling is in a song, it usually sparks an idea for a piece. I just roll with it and honestly, I just black out and it creates itself.

ME: I saw on your page that you’re from Columbus, OH. Do you travel to do the events or do you live in Atlanta now? Have you seen a difference in the art cultures between the two states?

VS: I still live in Columbus but I will travel almost anywhere to get my art seen. The cultures are very different. Art in Atlanta is more of a collective and community-oriented scene where Columbus artists are more supportive of only those they know or are within their circle. In regards to style, there’re artists of all calibers in both cities that produce insanely awesome work.

To find more information about Dose of Dopeness please visit http://www.rawartists.org/doseofdopeness

Caitlin “KK” Nixon.

Another artist that I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing was Caitlin “KK” Nixon. Like myself, she is not a native of Atlanta, GA. She moved from Birmingham Alabama for college and also to find a home for her unique style of work.

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She has a business named Hell is a Place which takes first world civil and political issues and depicts them in macabre and humorous ways.

During our interview, I was able to learn a bit about her as an artist and a few ways she maneuvers through the industry. One portion of the culture that I had not given much thought before starting this interview was collaborations. Caitlin and I spoke indepthly about how collaborations in the community can broaden the skill set of an artist and open up opportunities for exposure.

ME: How have you seen collaborations play a part in the exposure of your work both positively and negatively?

CN: Collaboration plays a huge part in one’s exposure, and I’ve used it a ton to push and promote myself. The pluses are vast, from being able to be apart of those opportunities that you would of otherwise not of had, to learning new skills and techniques that you can apply to your own projects. However, of course, you can’t have good without bad, and I’ve seen my fair share of failed partnerships that ran risks of portraying negative ideals about one’s personality or work to jobs that just failed.

To find more information about Caitlin “KK” Nixon please visit http://www.rawartists.org/ckknixon.


The night at Magnify was definitely one to remember! The welcoming atmosphere, live performances, and amazing art sent me out of the door with my head spinning and body buzzing with excitement. Every creator and performer gave one hundred and ten percent to all of us in attendance and it was received with more support than I ever would have imagined. I will definitely be attending next year!


olivia willis

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Tenacity: Finding the Path Towards Support and Promotion in Atlanta’s Art Community

The core of Atlanta exudes an air of diversity and optimism that has the power to knock a visitor off of their feet.  In a city heavily swayed by freelancing and entrepreneurship among the entertainment industry, the allure for a writer to be swept in this culture of artistic self-expression is delightfully magnetizing.

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📷 cc: Ms. Deo Soul

This summer, follow me as I dive into an exhibition of discovery throughout Atlanta’s art community. I will follow festivals, open mics, art showings and more. I aim to discover the opportunities and struggles that up and coming artists are experiencing. How do they find recognition? Are the opportunities as plentiful as they appear in the rapidly growing city? Let’s find out.


olivia willis

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