president obama speaks on trayvon martin

This photo of Obama and a little visitor at a Black History Month celebration is remarkable

Clark Reynolds, 3, is greeted by President Obama during a Black History Month Celebration held Feb.18, 2016, at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Pete Souza/White House)

“The look in Clark’s eyes offers one half of America’s current story. A country once determined to import and enslave black Americans is now, indeed, led by one. That is a transformation so profound and complex that when another young black child, Jacob Philadelphia, visited the White House in 2009 and asked the then-new president if they have the same hair. Obama bent down and advised Jacob to find out. The answer – yes – said much more to Jacob, the millions of Americans who have seen the Souza photo of that momentsince. It said, I am like you. You are like me. The most powerful elected office in the world is mine and is truly possible for all of us. Obama reportedly gave the photo a permanent and special home in the White House. But then, there is Obama’s tender touch on Clark’s cheek this week. It isanother remarkably familiar gesture between strangers which also reveals something deep and true. It speaks to the other half of America’s current story. Obama is our president. Still, this remains a country where children who look like Clark, but are perhaps a decade older, are widely regarded as a menace. They are to be feared and contained. Obama’s touch says, this child is precious and valuable because of who he is and what he can become. But when Obama said as much – telling reporters in 2012 that if he had a son, that son would look like Trayvon Martin – a good portion of America reacted as if that reminder was itself an extreme affront. On Thursday, before Clark left the White House, President Obama inscribed Clark’s favorite book. Clark’s mother brought it along. The inscription reads: “To Clark – Dream big dreams! Barack Obama.“”

DiverseArts Culture Works Artist Spotlight

Due to our current artist in residence, Beth Consetta Rubel’s, fast approaching closing ceremony (I can’t believe August 1st has already come so fast!) I thought I’d do a post dedicated to Consetta’s work.

While I enjoyed all of the pieces she has currently up on display here at the New East Arts Gallery – the scathing political commentary found within her portraits of President Obama and Trayvon Martin I found to be particularly powerful – I couldn’t help but be especially taken with her simpler pieces done with gouache and colored pencil on paper bags instead of regular canvas.

As someone who has had the privilege of never having to experience the “Paper Bag Test” firsthand I obviously cannot speak personally about this unfortunately common phenomenon, but the way in which Consetta’s portraits re-appropriate areas often denied to black folks due to racial profiling and celebrates the diversity of black bodies of all hues by using paper bags as canvases for her portraits really hit home.

Hopefully this post will encourage you to come by the gallery if you happen to be in town this weekend some time soon, so you’ll be able to see Consetta’s gorgeous artwork in person! : )


Civil rights protest in US capital -

Thousands of people have marched through the US capital, Washington DC, to protest against the recent killings of unarmed black people by police.

Relatives of Michael Brown, shot dead in the Missouri town of Ferguson, and Eric Garner, who died being restrained in New York, were among them.

Both died after encountering police, but grand juries decided not to bring charges, sparking anger and unrest.

A demonstration in New York also drew thousands despite chilly weather.

Speakers at the Capitol called for changes to US legislation.

Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, told the crowd: “What a sea of people. If they don’t see this and make a change, then I don’t know what we got to do. Thank you for having my back.”

The mood in the US capital was described as calm but defiant, with a large number of police on standby.

Earlier in the day, a small group of protesters from Missouri disrupted the schedule by taking to the stage at the starting-point, on Freedom Plaza, and blowing a bullhorn.

They complained that the protest, which was organised by long-established civil rights groups, was staid and ineffective.

At the scene: Rajini Vaidyanathan, BBC News, Washington DC

The brisk winter weather did not deter the thousands of protesters. Their aim - to stop what they say are the unlawful killings of black men, at the hands of the police.

The majority of people I spoke to said it was the case of Eric Garner, who died after being held in a chokehold by police in New York, which had motivated them to take to the streets, many for the first time. That case, as well as the fatal shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, has galvanised calls for change.

People say they will continue to protest until they get justice. They key question is what does that justice look like? For some that means changing legislation and the grand jury system, or giving police body cameras. But the bigger challenge is changing mindsets.

Bereaved families

Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead on 9 August during an altercation with a white police officer in Ferguson.

Mr Garner, 43, died while being held down by a white police officer on 17 July.

He had been challenged over the alleged sale of loose cigarettes on a street in Staten Island, New York.

The event was caught on camera and his dying plea of “I can’t breathe” has become a slogan of the protesters. It echoes the adoption of “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” - a Ferguson refrain alleging that Mr Brown was surrendering to police when the fatal shots were fired.

Relatives of three other black people killed in controversial shootings were also expected to attend the march, according to the National Action Network:

• Akai Gurley, 28, was shot dead by New York police on 20 November

• Tamir Rice, 12, was shot dead in a Cleveland, Ohio, park on 22 November while carrying a pellet gun

• Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot dead on 26 February 2012 by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida

‘So overwhelming’

Marchers crowded Pennsylvania Avenue for the walk from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol, but the actual numbers were not immediately clear.

Some in the crowd, which was made up of both black and white people, held banners saying: “Stop racist police”, “I can’t breathe”, and “President Obama seize this moment. The ancestors are watching.”

Speaking at the Capitol, Mr Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, called the march a “history-making moment”.

“It’s just so overwhelming to see all who have come to stand with us today,” she said. “I mean, look at the masses. Black, white, all races, all religions… We need to stand like this at all times.”

Most people who spoke to the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan at the march cited Mr Garner’s death as the main factor which had led them to join the protest, she said in a tweet.

The Rev Al Sharpton, a leading civil rights advocate, called for “legislative action that will shift things both on the books and in the streets”.

In New York, protesters shouted “We will shut New York City down” and “Black lives matter”, an AFP news agency correspondent reports.

New York march co-organiser Umaara Elliott urged “action… at every level of government to ensure that these racist killings by the police cease”.

The decision not to prosecute a policeman over Michael Brown’s death sparked riots in Ferguson and as far away as Oakland, California.

However, most of the protests over his and Mr Garner’s death have been peaceful.