Day of Anger Millions March, NYC December 13, 2014, photo by Paulette Myers-Rich
Minnesota Center for Book Arts Justice for George Community Print Project, letterpress printed broadside in response to the murder of George Floyd, in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Read more about this poster and download a copy here: https://www.mnbookarts.org/protest-posters/
Black Lives Matter formed in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2013. The following year, on December 13, 2014, the Day of Anger Millions March was organized as a national response to recent police deaths, including that of Eric Garner, who officers accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” were tragically echoed on the streets of Minneapolis, by George Floyd, five and a half years later on May 25, Memorial Day, 2020. The police were called by a store clerk, claiming Floyd was trying to pass a fake $20 bill.
My home-place is Minneapolis-St. Paul. I was born and raised in St. Paul, as was my father and my children. My grandmother, in Minneapolis, just off Lake Street and Cedar, where the recent riots burned out hundreds of cultural, educational and economic assets of this diverse community. Both cities are multi-generational home-places for me and I have seen much injustice in both cities over my six decades. It is not for lack of trying to make change. Indeed, St. Paul has had more success with police reform than Minneapolis for various reasons, but Minneapolis has remained intractable.
So, after many, many instances of police brutality in a city located in “flyover land,” I never thought I’d see George Floyd’s murder result in such a massive, global uprising. Floyd’s murder clearly isn’t the first time we’ve experienced it there since 2013. There were 18 days of protests in front of the police station in North Minneapolis after the death of Jamar Clark by police shooting in 2015. The shooting death of St. Paul resident Philando Castile in 2016 by a suburban cop, livestreamed by his girlfriend on Facebook, made national news and his murder brought thousands out into the streets of MSP, also for weeks. Freeways were frequently occupied and shut down by demonstrators and hundreds sat in front of the governor’s mansion, as they did last week. So learning of Floyd’s murder through hometown friends and media sources was a sadly familiar news story for me, coinciding with the recent murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and countless others since the “Day of Anger Millions March” in 2014, pictured above.
Yet, today we find ourselves in the midst of ongoing global demonstrations and marches during a deadly global pandemic disproportionately affecting Black and Brown people, who despite the dangers of exposure, are out in daily protest. Their righteous anger over far too many police killings with no accountability is joined by allies worldwide in recognition that the murders have escalated, not abated. Demands for accountability and immediate change are in response to the long-time resistance for reform by the police, and the ongoing killings that are accepted by this nations’ racist institutions going all the way to the top.
Despite years and years of ongoing protest, there still has been no justice for those who just want to go about their day without the threat of death by militarized police forces and the so-called justice system. As is said, no one is free while others are oppressed and it is once more that the streets are full of people who are demanding change. I stand with them, as do two of my beloved book art organizations I want to present here, in thanks and support of their endeavors.
Book arts centers are sites of social change and empowerment for those who have not been permitted by gatekeepers to speak up. Because of these centers, I’ve thrived as an artist and as an individual. They’ve inspired and empowered me to open my artist-run reading room in Beacon, paying it forward in a modest way by featuring the work of a wide array of artists and poets and continuing to print books for writers I admire, while making my personal work.
MCBA/Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis, is also a home-place for me. It’s been a cultural organization that has nurtured thousands of young people over their 35 years. MCBA gives young people the tools, the skills, the mentoring, the funds and the platform to raise their voices using printmaking and the book arts as vehicles for expression and sharing. They have been printing, displaying and handing out the letterpress printed broadside in honor of George Floyd you see here on this page.
I’ve also been a long-time member of the CBA/Center For Book Arts, in NYC and had the pleasure of taking classes there as well as participating in exhibits and fundraisers. The CBA is also a site for empowerment of marginalized voices and is fundraising through sales of their broadsides featuring the work of Black poets they’ve published over the years. https://centerforbookarts.org
I also want to mention the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY, here in the Hudson Valley. Although I have not yet had the opportunity to visit or work there, former students have and it’s made a major difference in their development. It’s been a center of empowerment for women through the book arts for decades. https://wsworkshop.org
I’ve never shied-away from speaking up or printing books on matters of social justice and I won’t be silent now. Reading Room book funds have been spent on new acquisitions in support of these efforts, as well as being diverted to support direct action on behalf of cultural organizations in MSP that need to be rebuilt after being destroyed. And there are many small press and artist-made books and zines on social justice topics in the Reading Room’s archives that will be available by appointment once I reopen after the Covid crisis is over. This is a safe space for anyone wanting to read and learn more from these works.
So, in honor of all those who work on behalf of justice for Black lives, please know my hands are never idle, my shelves are full of books that may now be hard to find and I continue to work towards a deeper understanding of how to bring about lasting change. That there are so many beloved people who were killed by racist, militarized police for far too long is a crime crying out for justice. We all must do our part. My part here is to send you to places I know that have a long-time mission of social justice through art education, with their own projects giving direct aid to the impacted communities and for the individuals who are out in the streets, while continuing the mission of supporting marginalized voices. Black lives matter. -PMR