Historic street protests, unprecedented public support for Black Lives Matter -- this spring and summer have created a new paradigm for attention to racism in America.
Pittsburgh-based artist Jasmine Green finds such developments inspiring. But she notes that protests have tended to revolve around Black lives lost in police custody, and the memory of victims like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“While it’s amazing that people are going out and protesting when people die, we kind of want to see that same support and vigor when people are living,” said Green, whose art activism includes her work with 1Hood Media.
Green has co-organized “Flowers While We’re Still Living,” a virtual arts event that asks, “Why do we so often only talk about Black lives once they have been lost?” The event is a meetup of the Women in the Arts Network, a group hosted by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
As Green puts it in press materials about Wednesday’s event, “Don’t wait until we are dead to give us our flowers; let us have them while we can still smell them.”
Green will present her work on Zoom alongside performances by rapper and singer Naomi Allen and singer Jacquea Mae.
Protesting police brutality is vital, Green said: “I’m greatly inspired by the fact that that’s finally getting attention.”
“But," she adds. "I also want to us to kind of refocus that attention, that whenever people stop protesting about death that we don’t completely ignore Black issues after that point."
She cited the 2019 report by the city’s Gender Equity Commission that ranked Pittsburgh as the worst big city to live in for African-American women, in terms of measures ramging from the poverty rate to infant mortality. She also cited overpolicing, the prison-industrial complex, the school-to-prison pipeline, and even prejudice against Black hairstyles in workplaces as injustices Black people confront.
Green’s portion of the evening is a video of her working on “Safe and Sound,” a painting she completed as part of an art-as-activism project for 1Hood. The painting honors Taylor – who was shot to death in her bed in March during a raid by police in Louisville, Ky. -- and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a 7-year-old girl killed in her sleep during a raid by Detroit police in 2010.
The painting depicts a Black woman asleep in a comfortable, nurturing environment. Its message, Green said, is that Black people deserve rest. The video will include a soundtrack of music and spoken-word poetry.
Registration is required to view the program. A registration fee of $10 helps pay the artists. More information is here.