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Image / Editorial

4 artists share powerful responses to BLM protests


by Shayna Sappington
07th Jun 2020
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These artists have used their talents to create moving responses to police brutality and systemic racism around the world


“You don’t get to be racist and Irish” Irish singer Imelda May recently shared a powerful poem on Instagram, calling for racial equality in Ireland.

She is among many artists that have responded to George Floyd’s murder, using their influence to bring awareness and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

These four artists are using their talents to be active in their community and join the cry to end racial injustice.

Imelda May

The Irish singer recently posted a poignant poem to her Instagram page. Through spoken word she calls out fellow Irishmen, labelling racists as hypocrites. 

An extract reads:

“You don’t get to be racist and Irish

You don’t get to be proud of your heritage,

plights and fights for freedom

while kneeling on the neck of another!

You’re not entitled to sing songs

of heroes and martyrs

mothers and fathers who cried

as they starved in a famine

Or of brave hearted

soft spoken

poets and artists

lined up in a yard

blindfolded and bound

Waiting for Godot

and point blank to sound

We emigrated

We immigrated

We took refuge

So cannot refuse

When it’s our time

To return the favour”

Banksy

 

The mysterious street artist previously created artwork to show support for frontline workers, and now, he’s broken his silence again to demonstrate his support for BLM. Banksy’s newest piece shows a picture of black figure besides flowers and candles with an American flag backdrop.

“At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem. It’s mine,” he wrote.

“People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. This faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t – no-one will let them in the apartment upstairs.

“This is a white problem and if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

Nikkolas Smith

American artist, activist and author Nikkolas Smith created an evocative painting based on a viral photograph taken during the protests in San Jose, California.

A black protester took a knee in front of a line of police officers armed with batons and face shields. In his rendition, the protester is holding a mirror to the cops “so that they may see what they have become”. 

Shane Gillen

Dublin artist Shane Gillen usually sketches prominent Irish figures, but his latest portrait is of the late George Floyd. Each portrait sold for just €10, with all proceeds going to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund.

Gillen was moved when he saw his portrait at a New York protest and called on those with white privilege to take action. “As a creative – particularly a privileged white male creative – it’s very hard to know how to use that creativity in activism without seeming self-serving, and sharing it without seeming self-indulgent,” he said. 

“This drawing was downloaded over 500 times, making over $5,000 for the George Floyd Memorial Fund, and though that certainly feels in some way pro-active and perhaps even useful, the real journey starts in the commitment to learn, support and try to become a true ally to the struggles of our friends in the black community. It isn’t enough to be outraged. It isn’t right to think we’re unaffected by George Floyd’s murder here in Ireland. […]

“Don’t ask your black friends where you need to start, they don’t owe you that education, we owe that education to ourselves, and our guilt and complicity in whiteness should not stand in the fog of our inability to Google. Black lives matter now, and they mattered then. It’s not enough to just be angry.” 

Feature image: @nikkolas_smith

 

Read more: Irish women tell us why they marched for Black Lives Matter yesterday

Read more: 12 books to educate yourself on systemic racism

Read more: 9 Black-owned Irish businesses to support now

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