Rituals of Commemoration
The genesis of this commemoration project was ignited when police in Ferguson, Missouri, killed Michael Brown in August of 2014. Rituals of Commemoration is a project that serves as a space holder, a memory legacy that will ensure that the names of victims of police brutality are not forgotten. Giving the lives lost dignity and respect by creating a physical space of remembrance and a symbolic acknowledgement of a difficult present.
I have recorded the names of over 1293 lives lost up to date. Both black men and to a lesser degree black women and youth. Rather than taking a “this too will pass” attitude, this project documents Black men, women and youth killed by police or security guards since 1979 across the United States. The current iteration of includes about 490 plus Pavestone, bricks, each measure 4 x 8 x 2.25 inches. Each brick is painted and individualized by inscribing and recording the name and year of each deceased person. The bricks are made of durable dry-cast concrete, a readily available, non-precious material. They are stacked reminiscent of a wall or column formations. In some iterations, the installation includes a wallpapered background with a similar brick design and Power Point projection with photographs, names, date killed, facts about the atrocity and the human being killed.
The online research resources include national databases, newspaper articles, writings by scholars, and museum archives. I balance the research with the process of spray-painting and distressing each brick after centering the names and aligning each letter. I have selected the colors Reddish Brown, Burnt Umber, Chocolate, Indian red, Carmine, and Black. There is a lot of layering and drying time in addition to the final glaze. The process is ritualistic, repetitive, numbing; it helps me cope with the overwhelming number of instances of tragedy and horrific violence.
With this project, I am interested in creating work that is relevant to conversations nationwide about the systematic racism that promotes inequality, poverty and a school to prison pipeline, the role of the police and ongoing military intervention abroad. It is an invitation for viewers to participate in a project that features reflection, social interaction, objects and action.
This project is grounded in past work, which is rooted in social issues, particularly the intersectionality of my identity as a woman, immigrant, and industrial worker.
My fundamental unwavering belief in justice fuels this desire to use these markers as permanent tombstones meaningfully marking lives lost. I believe this is an act of disruption that will provoke conversation, hold memory, and interrogate our own unconscious biases.