“Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day is an attempt to change the narrative by changing the narrators,” said Claudia Peña, Executive Director of For Freedoms. “We feature artists asking provocative questions, and in that context, the narrative of the 2020 election will involve a conversation between the artists and the residents who see these billboards, mostly in rural areas.
Seven artists on the project nationwide are talking about what it means to them today, their billboards, and their vote next month.
Mark ‘Haricot«Milligan II
“I was born and raised in Sainte-Croix, in the Virgin Islands, and I am honored to have my notice board on my island. This campaign brings long-awaited attention back to the islands and engages them as equal members. I am of mixed ancestry with African, Spanish and Taino roots, so Indigenous Peoples Day represents a correction to the biased narrative that we have been led to believe as the truth. The phrase on my banner “Is black innocence important?” is a reference to Black Lives Matter and is an extension of my recent painting Inocensia Negra, created after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. This piece depicts three young black boys playing in the ocean, representing the innocence of my two sons and that of all black children. Too often the young boys of the African diaspora are robbed. Whether at the hands of the police, mass incarceration or media stigma, this work celebrates the youth of black children. I desire a future where our young people can approach each day with shining eyes, knowing that this world cherishes their shine.
“Indigenous Peoples Day is deeply important to me because it underscores the idea that we should not give thanks for a ‘gift’ or partition of American lands, but to seek ways to right the harm done to Indigenous peoples by marriage. white supremacy and colonialism of the settlers. This year, as we watch America burn, this day should be used to pressure Congress to center our tribal leaders as we reflect on how to protect North American lands, as they have. done for millennia. My notice board reads “Did you mail your ballot?” Is a call to citizens to preserve their health by participating in our democratic process. This room is located in Montpelier, Vermont, which has an older population, which is also vulnerable to Covid-19, as are black and brown groups, so postal voting can keep these people out of harm’s way.
“During the global pandemic, an increasingly controversial political landscape, and the wave of energy to re-dedicate ourselves to racial justice in America, I have seen my incredible peers balance fear with bravery. , a commitment to the family and local and global communities of the under-represented. people. I’ve seen them create art in response and build new support systems. But among my friends, especially my friends who identify with women and especially those of us who are mothers, many of us are urged to do what is voidable on a daily basis. I wanted a message to remind the world that through change we cannot allow ourselves to be a teaser. I don’t want us to burn out. All the crises in the world today require us to run more and more through the little threads of our minds and souls, but when these go out, does that leave the world a brighter place? Of course, this is not the case. The social, economic, physical, political and intellectual demands of a movement must bring with it the great care and worth of every human being who is part of it.
“Indigenous Peoples Day is a step forward in recognizing the trauma the United States has inflicted on our communities. It represents an opportunity to reinvent the way we see, treat and honor those who have lost almost everything, while preserving our relationship to the land. As I celebrate this day, I also see a future where we celebrate indigenous peoples every day, not just one day a year. In my work there is an image of Chef Arvol Looking Horse, who once said to me: “You are in desperate need of saving the soul of this world, did you think you were here for anything less? This message stuck with me, guiding me as a storyteller. It is my duty to honor his voice and all the indigenous peoples who have been the stewards of the land. But it’s also a reminder that we are all responsible for protecting the planet. “
“For me, Indigenous Peoples Day is a small step. It’s a beginning. The day before I created my piece for this project, I saw a report about Dawn Wooten, a nurse at an Ice detention center, talking about hysterectomies performed without consent. Just reading the story made me nauseous. When I started my creative process the next day all I could see was a hand ripping a female reproductive system out of a body and setting it on a mantle like a trophy. The story of forced sterilizations against black and brunette women in this country is so alarming and inhumane, from serial killer J Marion Sims to Indian Health Services and California prisons. The question on the billboard seeks to reflect on all aspects of this intersection. “
Edgar bunch of birds
“I have a feeling that the Aboriginal reality often exists in a sphere not understood by the mainstream culture. Every day is an indigenous day for our indigenous spiritual communities. We don’t need a holiday to recognize respect for ourselves, tribal youth, indigenous elders and this precious natural world. But as a rebuttal to the murderous legacy of American colonial society based on continuing violence, removing the Columbus Day celebration is productive. As this imbalanced empire continues to fight against itself and against those who have been violated, we must understand that a republic cannot create immigration distinctions when all of its members are foreigners. So, at the start of the nation, the tenants of these Founding Fathers must look back to understand what laws and what care came first on these lands? Who has the love to preserve and renew our earth and not to lead the natural life to decay? “
“Grounded is an organization created by artists from Memphis that harnesses the power of creativity to solve pressing issues facing our communities. Our goal is to end the appalling rates of violence and incarceration among young people in Memphis and beyond. The phrases on both of our billboards are quotes from our unreleased short Me and the Light, directed by Alan Spearman, which features Memphis artists and members of our Grounded team, including Lil Buck, who is featured on Jackson’s billboard. The film shows how we can use art to transform violence and promote peace. Abel Billings, 17, was part of our Covid-19 Spring Response Pilot Program and created a series of images in response to viewing the film. Billings’ work was chosen to be featured alongside a quote from the film: “When you close your eyes, what do you see?” The footprints of your past? Or the dreams you wish you were? Public art projects like this are so important because they remind us that art should be accessible to everyone.