“Yes, and” : Two murals and a poem
Troy Gibson and Savannah "Cheyenne" Parker were both raised in the South End of Seattle and recently graduated from Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences (SAAS), where two murals they made are currently on display. The murals, installed July 29 at the intersection of 12th Avenue and Union (just a few blocks away from the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone), are largely inspired by the artists’ own experiences and by Black Lives Matter demonstrations taking place across the country.
At the time I created this piece I was actually reading one of James Baldwin’s works titled Another Country. In the novel, Baldwin highlights the complexity of race in America and how it effects personal relationships, along with a number of other social, economic, and racial issues.
It’s been argued that James Baldwin's philosophy on racial injustice should be taught in schools across the country, and I completely agree. We live in a changing world where voices need to be heard, and people need to be educated. If you are in any way active on social media there is no question that these issues are on the forefront of everyone’s mind now. So why not highlight a person who I thought has had such an effective way of communicating this on a global level.
As a young Black man I am glad to create something that aids this ongoing fight for racial equality. Hopefully my piece can inspire people to take a look at Baldwin’s work and take the knowledge they’ve learned to educate others.
Savannah "Cheyenne" Parker
There’s a quote by James Baldwin that says: "What is it you wanted me to reconcile myself to? I was born here almost 60 years ago. I'm not going to live another 60 years. You always told me, ‘It takes time.’ It's taken my father's time, my mother's time, my uncle's time, my brother's time, and my sister's time. How much time do you want for your progress?" My piece is inspired by both my perspective and James Baldwin’s words of wisdom.
Everything within my mural has significance. The colors presented in the piece are red, black, and green, the color palette of the African American Flag. The Black figures represent the societal image of a Black human being. The targets represent the consistent dehumanization and criminalization that Black people are forced to endure. The dark green background represents the future of Black pride.
The words above the figures are from a poem I wrote [prior to the current revolution] titled, "Yes, and.” The poem reflects the perspective of the African American struggle to stay the course. In some of the lines, I mockingly represent how non-African American allies have failed to acknowledge and support the fight against our struggle to live. We have seen that police brutality doesn't discriminate. They’ll harm children, men, women, trans women, trans men. They will take the life of any human being.
As an African American, since the day you are born, you have a target on your back, and that target remains until the day you die. Living in fear isn’t living at all, but that is the reality that I, as a Black person, was forced to accept. I’ve returned my letter of acceptance to its sender [the oppressor] because to accept is to comply, and I do not comply with continuing to watch my people die.
by Savannah Cheyenne
You are not like them and they are not like us.
We think that being ourselves isn't enough.
So we're careful of what we say, careful in what we do.
Only to remain the dullest color in an ocean of blue.
“We are here for our brothers.”
“We'll stand for our sisters.”
But, you'll only rise for those who have given up, as long as the bare minimum is enough.
Well, see, being human is already tough.
And living as a human being, with a racial identity
Adds a layer of complexity.
Because who I am is based upon what you see of me.
And who you are is based upon what I see in you and what you do.
I stand in solidarity with those who have given up, but I refuse to inherit their bitterness, simply because life's been rough.
I stand in solidarity with those who are trying but are too scared to ignite the words that give light to voices that are slowly dying.
But still, I will not accept your compliance with our current state.
I stand in solidarity with those who have been so bold, to share how they feel, I appreciate your effort to keep it real.
But I will not accept the fact that you struggle to listen to the thoughts of others, simply because you refuse to heal, heal from the pain, or to find warmth after a year of cold rain.
Acceptance can cause you to be stagnant or lead to change.
I stand in solidarity with you because we have all been there; we have all been here.
I have questioned my ability to make a difference in the world.
I have tried and given up, reignited the spark, and tried again.
But through it all, I've chosen not to accept what I can change.
© 2020 Savannah “Cheyenne” Parker