This is a piece of art. I talk about art. It is my life. Art is a voice that reflects life. And when life gets hard, art must reflect that, too. Like many others right now, I can’t keep silent when I see such great injustice, like that done to George Floyd, his family, and other people all around our country. These are difficult times. As a Latino-Anglo male, I can’t help but feel this is all very personal. Like my father and mother, I’ve spent a great deal of my life working in marginalized communities on issues of education, basic human services, social justice, and art.
I have a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Irvine. I became a professional artist about 15 years ago. My practice is to re-imagine historical portraiture and imagery in contemporary compositions, in order to open a dialogue between our past and present. In support of the protests for George Floyd and others like him, that is exactly what I have done with my new piece, “Chicago, 1966.”
In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved north to Chicago in order to continue the Civil Rights Movement, primarily focusing on the systemic racism in housing and city planning. Dr. King made it clear at the time that he believed if Chicago could be changed, so could the rest of the country. This infamous image is not what it seems on first glance. During the start of a march to seek equity for black housing in Chicago, approximately 700 white supremacists swarmed Dr. King in Marquette Park, throwing stones and bricks, eventually hitting him in the back of the head with a large stone. “The blow knocked King to one knee and he thrust out an arm to break the fall,” the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. “He remained in this kneeling position, head bent, for a few seconds until his head cleared.” Later in his autobiography, Dr. King wrote, “When they discovered brotherhood had to be a reality in Chicago and that brotherhood extended to next door, then those latent hostilities came out.”