"Woah." The only possible word my brain allowed my mouth to say. As we stopped at a red light in Downtown D.C., my sight shifted from the front windshield to the passenger side window. My eyes, previously glued to my phone, were now studying my surroundings. People of all colors, shapes, and sizes lined the street. Sweat dripping from their foreheads in the midsummer sun, the fences filled with heart-aching posters and flags that blew effortlessly in the wind.
On June 6th, 2020, my friends and I drove to the streets of D.C. in search of protest. What I experienced that day gave me a feeling like no other - a sense of unity.
I linked arms with those beside me as we marched down the street with the words of justice flying from our lips.
"Black Lives Matter!"
Though I had barely met the bodies that surrounded me, I felt at home. We shared an unbreakable bond, no longer afraid to sit back and observe racial inequality. On this day, we decided to be a part of the change and continued to protest.
"No justice, no peace!"
Black Lives Matter, was a movement that started in 2013, yet it was the summer of 2020, and I had just begun to hear of it. Although this wasn't the start of fighting for black lives, it certainly was just the beginning for me.
My hunger for protests intensified like an addiction - spending hours on end doing research and making posters. In front of me lies an assortment of acrylic paints, but it's the candy red that is calling my name. I dip my eldest paintbrush into the heap of bright red I poured onto the nearest paper plate. The bristles of my brush drag across the cardboard box retrieved from the recycling, creating the words "respect existence, or expect resistance." I sit back to analyze my final product, almost like a critic. It was perfect. Well, nearly perfect, but I craved a superior medium to challenge racial injustice - more than posters and more than a march. At this moment, I knew what I desired was the ability to confront racial inequality through art.
Trayvon Martin, Kendrec McDade, Kimani Gray, and George Floyd - just a handful of names out of hundreds, but they were the first ones featured in my new works of art. Sketches, that's all they were, but I wanted a drawing, I wanted a painting, I wanted more. So I did just that, and what started as a hobby quickly turned into my passion. Every sparing moment I found myself thinking of what painting I could do next. Eager to put my thoughts onto a canvas, I would jump at whatever opportunity I had to add to my collection. Every paycheck I earned almost went entirely towards new paint, pens, canvas' and any supplies I could get my hands on.
I painted canvas after canvas, each one showing the last words of these victims and the tears in their eyes. The series of emotions I felt from each image created an indescribable fiery pit in my stomach, which only made me want to produce more work. Every painting was different, yet they all obtained the same meaning. I created portraits that displayed the agony endured by minorities, and with each one came the pride in knowing I could do so, but the pain in knowing I had to.
I possess more privilege than most simply because I am white, which I will use for those who cannot say the same. So, I have taken to social media to post photos of my art for the public to see. I have sold nearly a dozen portraits in honor of Black Lives Matter, and I plan to continue until I see a change.
Author: Kelly Angelini
Location: Virginia, USA