WHAT’S GOING ON: The day of American independence is, for some, a meaningful celebration. For others, a reason to put some meat on the grill, and watch the fireworks with a beer. But for many, whether they’re aware of it or not, it’s a holiday dedicated to something that doesn’t exactly exist. An implication within the framework of the United States of America is that everyone is equal and has equal rights. In his speech on “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” in 1852, the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, said: “I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.” Unfortunately, Douglass’s words still ring true for too many.
We have previously, and extensively covered the protest art that has been appearing in SoHo over June on the boards covering stores in the aftermath of citizens seizing sneakers. We thought we were done, but then more murals kept appearing, and they were even more poignant. Some were offering a reflection on the protests and reactions to them, others contextualizing the events historically. So we decided that there’s no better way to spend the Fourth of July than reflecting on the American experience through the lens of black and abolitionist thought. The murals in this selection are a true reading list: MLK, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Saidiya Hartman, Rosamond S. King, and Scott Woods, an intergenerational spread. So you know where to continue the education, once you’re done peeping.
WHO MADE IT: Some of the participants are easy to recognize from their other work in the streets of New York City. Others are emerging stars.
Here are the artists featured in this selection: Paul Deo, Amir Diop, Jeff Rose King, Calicho Arevalo, Zachary Ginsberg, Nick C. Kirk, Loren Crea Abbate, Tyler Ives, Nobuho Nagasawa, Dena Paige Fischer, Only_the_Arts, Sara Lynne Leo, Sir Shadow, Mel Wozniak, Girl Named Jane, Koffee Creative, Liliana Rivera, Maeve Cahill, Yobarlo, Ridikkuluz, Robot Moon Juice, Montoya Montana, Rosamond S. King, Nile Onyx, Kiko Hernandez, Kamila Zmrzla-Otcasek, Aisha Bee, Sula Bust, Majo San, DVNNY, Lena Viddo, Manuel Alejandro Pulla, Gukumatz Xmucane.
Soho Social Impact is the initiative bringing artists together.
WHY DO WE CARE: The Supamodu office is very close to SoHo, but it’s also very close to the spot where Frederick Douglass landed in Manhattan on his journey of escaping slavery. And that’s the history of America that’s always been most valuable to us. Like with any other country, when we write about American art and culture, we’re not interested in what’s known in the canon of the majority. We’re interested in the Zora Neale Hurstons and the Paul Robesons, the TC Cannons and the Link Wrays, the Arshile Gorkys, and the Ocean Vuongs, the Selenas, and the Raoul Pecks. And the art in SoHo has been very refreshing in this instance, as well. Since the less affluent galleries have left SoHo, the majority of art exhibited there is by wealthy and dead white men. So it has been incredibly exciting to see the murals created by artists from diverse backgrounds. Walking around the neighborhood and seeing the people create their murals, we’ve met African-American, Latinx, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and European makers. We’ve seen men and women, trans and cis individuals, straight and queer creators, young and old, professional and amateur, well-known and aspiring. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
WHY YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION: The protests, the political and cultural shifts emerging from grassroots movements have been changing the way America is perceived both from within and from the outside. And art is just how these changes are processed in the collective consciousness and engrained for posterity, even if the art in question may not last much longer. The people on the ground have been telling us that there are many efforts made to preserve the heritage of the Black Lives Matter era in SoHo, but of course, this will never be achieved in full. And that’s the beauty of it, and of being able to share these artworks with our readers. Rush to see them; they might be gone very soon.
If you want to participate and bring more art and justice to the street you live in but lack the skills, here are the links to some posters by the featured artists to print out:
Black Lives Matter poster by Anonymous
Black Lives Matter posters by Quentin Monge
The portraits of victims of police brutality by Lydia Venieri
PS: We’ve tried to identify as many creators as possible, but if you have any additions, please get in touch at email@example.com or any social media DMs.
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