Chicago, 1966

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.”

I painted this piece as my personal walk of protest during isolation for health problems. I write this as many of my friends and colleagues are in the streets marching for justice and human rights that for far too long have evaded so many people of color. I truly wish I could be with you. I am there in spirit and heart. I am working hard from my studio and home to do what I can. I am working with a dear friend (and amazing activist and human being) to put something together to help with funds and support.

For me, the act of creating this work is a reaction to the failure of humanity to address the persistently unequal treatment of anyone deemed “different,” “other,” or “foreign.” The parallels between events in Chicago in 1966 and Minneapolis in 2020 remain all too present. We need to change. We need to stop this type of systemic institutional racism and violence against all people of color. All should be treated equally under the law and in everyday life. I’ll say it again. It’s time for change - systemic, political, cultural, and philosophical change. That change has to start in each of our hearts and minds, and then we need to use that power to affect change in our culture, society, and institutions. May peace, health, and happiness grace you and your families. Please take care of each other out there.

~ Everett