Our ABCs (Children's Blocks)  

I created pieces for a body of work called “The Devil Finds Work.”  The inaugural installation is a set of three life-sized children’s blocks called “Our ABCs.”  Using one the earliest tools for learning and play, I have appropriated these structures as a way to communicate my own distress in not knowing what to tell the next generation of black children how to be safe, and to also illuminate the different lessons that Black children must learn versus their White counterparts. Each block features the face of a child slain by police or civilians, specifically Trayvon Martin, Khaleif Browder, and Jordan Edwards.  To accompany their portraits, each block has a message from the “talk” printed on three sides.  Leading up to each block is a scroll that repeats the words “colored,” “body,” and “last words.”  This text is taken from Google image searches of the three young men. Ultimately, the installation not only serves as an epitaph for these individuals, but it also serves as a requiem for innocence lost."

This body of work attempts to document how the Black Body has had to navigate physical, social, and psychological spaces in America. The series includes drawings and an installation that document Black communities’ history of survival techniques and its continued struggle for autonomy over its physical and spiritual being. With the escalating assaults on the Black community by individuals, law enforcement, and institutions, my community has been discussing how to operate in these violent times—not only for our physical well being, but also for our peace of mind.

 

The African American community has always given their children “The Talk,” a set of social instructions about how to survive encounters with law enforcement and private citizens. However, with events including the murders at the hands of police of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and Philando Castille, and the death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, these operating instructions are becoming obsolete. The feeling of entitlement over the Black Body has violated mundane pursuits, such as waiting for a friend in Starbucks, sleeping in a college common space, and walking into one’s own apartment building. So how does a body take precautions when the rules of engagement are constantly shifting? How do you instruct the next generation to survive, when any perceived offense ends in an execution? How do you embrace the history of your identity, when a large part of it has been marred by violence?