As artists and members of the Union of Maine Visual Artists, we vigorously condemn the murder of George Floyd. We extend our sympathies to Mr. Floyd’s family and friends and to all those in the black community who have lost loved ones at the hands of racist officers and vigilantes. We further stand in solidarity with those protesters in the streets and elsewhere who call for an end to racism.

The unbearable weight of racism and the savagery of racists are deeply embedded in the fabric of American society. The cold-blooded murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis illustrates this. Three fellow police officers stood by as white officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Racism is apparently so embedded in the culture of law enforcement in Minneapolis that police fraternity carries more weight than the life of a black man.

As the history of racism in America echoes in the street these days, the gruesome video of Mr. Floyd’s murder recalls photographs of Southern lynchings of black men and women. The lifeless body of a black person hangs from a tree while whites below smile for the camera. George Floyd’s death also echoes the metal face masks used against enslaved African peoples, condemning them to starvation.

The memory of Emmett Till rises up. He was a 14-year-old black child brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955. He was found in a lake, naked with a heavy fan around his neck. Birmingham, Alabama, police chief Bull Connor comes to mind, too. He turned police attack dogs and high-powered firehoses on peaceful black civil rights protesters in 1963. More recently, Eric Garner’s murder echoes down the street where Floyd was murdered. Garner was strangled to death by a white police officer in New York in 2014.

For 400 years white society has pressed its knee against the throat of blacks in America. Whites who do nothing to end systemic racism, like the three officers who watched the murder of Floyd, are complicit in destroying the lives of their fellow black citizens. Indeed, inaction has already had numerous murderous consequences. We urge our fellow Maine artists to speak out, to create work that contributes to our collective understanding of our society’s racist foundation.

We applaud the Americans who have flooded into the nation’s streets, who have risen against systemic racism. The longer they occupy the streets the greater pressure they place on American institutions, the more they push racist practices, policies and agencies into the national dialogue, the more they overwhelm racist voices trying to diminish, deflect and deny an ongoing national crisis. In the end these activists – from black, brown, indigenous and white communities – could well play a critical role in defeating the most racist presidency in decades.

John Ripton                 David Estey                Michelle Leier              Norma Johnsen

Kris Onuf                    Anne Strout                 Pamela Hetherly         Jane Page-Conway

Ann Tracy                   Janice Moore              Dave Berrang              Jen Joaquin

Liz Prescott                 Ann Deutsch               Amy Bellezza             Arthur Nichols

Nora Tryon                 Gregg Harper              Christine Higgins     Jacqueline Hawkings

Daniel Minter             Chris Reed                  Greg Burns                 Karen Adrienne

Natasha Mayer            Rabee Kiwan              Peter Haller                 Abby Shahn

Dave Wade                  Tracy Ginn                  Ken Kohl                    Titi De Baccarat

Jim Kelly                    Susan Smith                Lesley MacVane         Leecia Price

Karolyn Greenstreet   Anita Clearfield          Pete Gorski                 Renuka O’Connell

Michael Torlen            William Hessian         Mark Barnette             Roland Salazar Rose

Endorsed by UMVA artists across the state from Kennebunk to Portland to Solon to Camden to Guilford to Brunswick to Orono.

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