Saturday, July 4, 2015

Late Review: Manifest Justice

From May 1 to May 10 of this year, an old, abandoned theater in Baldwin Hills was turned into a giant gallery with over 200 works of art by over 150 artists for a pop-up art exhibit called Manifest Justice.

The large-scale exhibit featured art that spoke to social justice issues; everything from gender wage inequality to mass incarceration, but—with the people of Baltimore still out in the streets protesting the death of Freddie Gray—works of art that dealt with police brutality and police murder seemed to speak to people the most.

There was an installation piece by Artist Ti-Rock Moore called, “Protect and Serve,” that consisted of a neon sign of the words, Choke Hold, but with the letter O being substituted by a noose; there is no mistaking the connection the artist was making to how Black people were treated by the KKK, in the days after the end of the Civil War, and the way they are treated by the police today.

“Dis Arm,” an image of a police baton on fire, by well-known Street Artist Robbie Conal, seemed to be there to remind us that the anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Rebellion had just passed.

Other pieces even seemed to speak about the future.  For instance, a painting by Graffiti Artist Mear One, of a youth wearing a gas mask and kaffeiyah, holding a large shield with the words, “Fight For Humanity,” spray-painted on it.

Another piece, “American Dreamers (Phase 2),” a large installation of a gutted police car in the middle of the floor, couldn’t help but stand out to most people.

Looking at this piece, (which was made to look like an NYPD car on one side, and a Ferguson police car on the other side), one could imagine a future society where this art piece was actually a relic of a horrible, long-forgotten past.

The car had many plants, a sort of garden, growing from inside it.  And, in an interview with a local TV station, the creator of the piece, Jordan Weber said, “It’s a symbol of young black Americans who have not come to fruition before being taken.”

It is very significant that many artists are being brought together to display these kinds of art pieces to large crowds; art that makes people confront the reality, injustice and horror going on right now.

At this time, there are no plans to take the Manifest Justice exhibit to other cities, but you can see photos of most of the pieces mentioned here, (and many more), at

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Add to your bookshelf: Genius Vol 1

Tomorrow, (May 27, 2015), marks the release date of "Genius," Vol 1, which collects the five issue mini series, (and "pilot" issue), of the story of a young Black teen named, Destiny Ajaye, who unifies all the gangs in South Central L.A. to fight against the police.

A Black female as the lead character in a comic-book would be enough to grab a headline, but this series was catching a lot of people's attention last year--when it first came out--because it was released during the time of grand protest and upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri.

In "Genius," Destiny is fighting against the police, after having witnessed the brutal murder of her parents by the LAPD; meanwhile, in real life, the people of Ferguson took to the streets, destroying property--especially police cars, after the local district attorney said that he would not press charges against the police officer who killed a young, unarmed, Black man.  (Coincidentally, this Vol 1 release comes right on the heels of another rebellion against police murder, this time in Baltimore).

The story in "Genius" is not perfect.  There are a lot of things a revolutionary would disapprove of:  For instance, Destiny is not using ideology to become a revolutionary leader; she actually ends up being the top dog in the gang underworld by sleeping with a top gang-member and killing many rivals.

She is also uniting gang members based mostly on revenge, not mostly on the idea of creating a better world.  (There is also a dialogue problem because I cringed every time I read something that sounded like it was coming from a Nuyorican in the Bronx, rather than a South Central Chicano).

Despite all this, I really like this story because it shows people actually fighting back against the police--in the only way they understand, and it's a story that tells us that there is potential for a kid in South Central to be a military genius.  One great thing I really liked about the character is her understanding that she also needs to win public opinion during the fight with the LAPD.

For anyone interested, you can download the pilot/preview issue for free and read it on your tablet or mobile device.