The 4th of July commemorates American independence from England and, in theory, a move to democracy over monarchy. The holiday is sometimes used by politicians for nationalistic political grandstanding, but I think that it is important to recognize the difference between democracy and monarchy, as well as the difference between nationalism and patriotism. We are momentarily stuck with a president who’d prefer to be a monarch than someone accountable to democracy. He is also someone who loves nationalism, because he knows nationalists fall in line with the national power structure regardless of whether its policies are good for the citizens. I consider myself a patriot, not a nationalist… I believe in the potential of the nation to do good for its citizens and the world, and I will push to amend the system’s flaws and further the good policies. Let’s use the 4th as a reminder that democracy is a privilege that must be maintained through action, which always means voting, and when necessary, means protesting in the streets. The current crop of Republicans seem to despise patriotic dissent, but it wasn’t always that way. Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican, made a speech she called a “Declaration of Conscience” in response to McCarthy’s tactics. Here is an excerpt:
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism —
The right to criticize;
The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
The right to protest;
The right of independent thought.
I’m releasing two 24×36 open edition offset lithograph prints celebrating those rights aforementioned rights.
This “American Rage” print is based on a photo by Ted Soqui, taken in South Central on August 15, 2014 during a Black Lives Matter protest. The movement was in it’s first year and were demonstrating against LAPD and Sheriff shootings of unarmed black men. This image is equally emblematic of the current wave of protests for racial justice and police reform that the nation has been experiencing in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. I remember at the time, 28 years ago, feeling enraged that blatant acts of police brutality inflicted on Rodney King went unpunished when they were clearly captured on video. I was ecstatic that enough people were distressed by what happened to George Floyd, and what has happened to countless unarmed people of color at the hands of the police, to hit the streets in peaceful protest. Protest is a noble use of free speech, protected as a civil right, and is as American as apple pie. This “American Rage” image is a celebration of protest as a form of civic participation in democracy. I don’t ever condone violence or looting, but I understand why things can reach a boiling point, resulting in riots, when people feel that the American system has failed them over and over. Martin Luther King Jr. said “A riot is the language of the unheard”. King also condemned politicians who “are more devoted to order than justice”. I urge people not to conflate peaceful protest with “criminal agitation” or “inciting a riot.” When the system fails the people, it is nothing short of patriotic for the people to protest for a solution. Proceeds from this print benefit Black Lives Matter.
The Voting Rights are Human Rights print is a collaboration with photographer Steve Schapiro who documented many of the important civil rights protests in the 1960s. Steve and I met at the opening of The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama. As I looked through his numerous beautiful and powerful photos, we discussed the possibility of collaborating on the spot. Voting rights and racial equality were the focus of a mass movement toward a more just society in the ’60s. Unfortunately, insidious racism, which never went away, has given way to more overt racism, and voter suppression, often targeting people of color and students. Democracy needs to work for everyone.
Voting rights are human rights, and we need to make every effort to give equal voting access to everyone of voting age regardless of race or economic circumstance. It is essential that people vote! Proceeds from this print will benefit Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. Thank you for caring!
American Rage. 24 x 36 inches. Offset print on cream Speckletone paper. Original photo by Ted Soqui. Signed by Shepard Fairey. $45. Proceeds go to Black Lives Matter. Available on Thursday, July 9th @ 10 AM PDT at https://store.obeygiant.com/collections/prints. International customers are responsible for import fees due upon delivery. Orders may be delayed due to COVID19. ALL SALES FINAL.
Voting Rights are Human Rights Offset. 24 x 36 inches. Offset print on cream Speckletone paper. Original photo by Steve Schapiro. Signed by Shepard Fairey. $45. Proceeds go to Equal Justice Initiative. Available on Thursday, July 9th @ 10 AM PDT at https://store.obeygiant.com/collections/prints. International customers are responsible for import fees due upon delivery. Orders may be delayed due to COVID19. ALL SALES FINAL.