Jerseys

Flowers

Over the weekend there was another police killing of a black man caught on video in Atlanta, GA, and increased scrutiny over several hangings of black men across the country. I’ve designed a jersey for Rayshard Brooks, but first we grieve.

The UNARMED project was started to protest racist killings by the police. But Unarmed stands against racist killings of all kinds. We cry for Oluwatoyin Salau, 19, too. Salau, a #BlackLivesMatter activist, was sexually assaulted and murdered by a black man in her own community.

Breonna Taylor, 26 • Ahmaud Arbery, 25 • Dominique Alexander, 27 • Malcolm Harsch, 38 • Robert Fuller, 24 • Rayshard Brooks, 27

The poet Thomas Gray said “Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” We see these flowers and rejoice in their bloom.

Flatbush Avenue

The installation started with a phone call. The homie Michael Hastings-Black had known about UNARMED for years and the moment demanded action. His friend Trevor MacDermid has a business making large-scale prints. The three of us collaborated just a few weeks ago on MHB’s Hungry Vintage, which raises money for food banks. Why not link up together once again for Unarmed? Within a couple days the prints were made, and a day after that we met on Flatbush Avenue to install them. A few other friends joined – that’s Arjun’s son below. Pressing each person’s name onto the wall with our hands felt special. I hope they felt us reaching up to them.

Breonna Taylor

Louisville Police used a “no-knock” warrant to enter Breonna Taylor’s home in search of two people who, it turns out, were already in police custody. Officers fired more than 20 times at Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker, including the 8 bullets that killed Taylor. No drugs were found in the apartment. She would have turned 27 on June 5th.

George Floyd

Live-streams of protest footage here every night.

Believe me, the last thing I’d rather be doing right now is designing another jersey and posting it on the internet. I started this project in 2013. That’s a lot of tears spilled over Adobe Illustrator. A lot of marches and grief. And so I let a few go by – Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor – sounds so callous, doesn’t it? But isn’t that what we all do?

Three of the jerseys appeared in my film 72 Hours: a Brooklyn Love Story? – isn’t that enough?

Last year around this time I interviewed Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s twin sister, for a documentary I was directing about a separate topic related to race. The Terence Crutcher jersey was the last one I designed in this series, four years ago, on my birthday. Dr. Crutcher spoke powerfully in our interview about how she didn’t want her life to be about her brother’s killing, but how we must find the strength to raise our voices in the midst of pain.

And so my fingers quiver once again as I select fonts and Google details – did George Floyd have a nickname? Where should it appear on the jersey? Bullets were easier to make into a design motif – stars – but how does one represent a knee and the crushing weight of racism? With a glyph? A line weight?

TO PROTECT WITH COURAGE
TO SERVE WITH COMPASSION

That is the motto of the Minneapolis Police Department. If you didn’t know that, know this. George Floyd – Big Floyd – was UNARMED.

#BlackLivesMatter

Alton Sterling

Witnesses say that Sterling was armed, but that he was not holding or touching his gun during his interaction with police. Further, Louisiana is an open carry state. At the time of his shooting, his arm appeared to be restrained behind his back.

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland was driving her vehicle to a new job in Prairie View, Texas when a routine traffic stop led to her being jailed. She subsequently died while in custody of what has been called a suicide.

unarmed-sandrabland

Not Forgotten

Freddie Gray and Walter Scott were not forgotten. And I continue to learn the stories of others such as Antonio Zambrano-Moses. I had hoped to take a hiatus from the project. But the work must continue.

Mike Brown

The killing of Mike Brown, though no footage exists, is one of the most painful to think about. The subsequent protests in Ferguson, Mo. and the #BlackLivesMatter campaign have been inspiring outcomes, but hurt undergirds all. “Big Mike” is pictured wearing a St. Louis Cardinals hats in one of the iconic photos of him, and so the jersey is done in those colors.

The first baseball-style design in this series, the jersey features six stars above his name on the back in response to the six bullets that entered his body. His nickname, “Big Mike,” is embroidered on the arm.

MICHAEL-BROWN

Eric Garner

The Eric Garner jersey was the third in the series. The killings of Eric Garner followed by Mike Brown marked the moment this project becoming a series and not a one-off idea. One detail on this jersey is the “Courtesy Professionalism Respect” motto that is painted on every NYPD vehicle. The jersey number, 43, represents Garner’s age at the time of the incident, as does the number of each jersey in the project.

Sean Bell

The Sean Bell jersey was next. Chronologically Sean Bell’s killing happened much earlier, but the jersey design happened next. The 50 stars on the side of the jersey represent the 50 bullets used to kill him.

unarmed-seanbell