See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

#Ferguson Killing Inspires Street Art Throughout the US

"Message Reflects on Traffic" in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by Light Brigading on Flickr.

“Message Reflects on Traffic” in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by Light Brigading on Flickr.

The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked by the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer, has had a deep influence on art there and throughout the US.

Many artists and performers have made appearances at rallies and vigils in or related to Ferguson, where protesters continue to demand justice following a grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown to death. 

A Ferguson-themed window mural. Photo by Paul Sableman on Flickr.

A Ferguson-themed window mural. Photo by Paul Sableman on Flickr.

Justice for All rally in Washington DC, December 13, 2014. Photo by Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr.

Justice for All rally in Washington DC, December 13, 2014. Photo by Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr.

Street art, including graffiti, posters, and banners at rallies, seem to be growing out of the protests and in the community daily. Recently, an article news website Mic claims that Ferguson, Missouri now has “the most powerful street art in America” and tells of a young artist, Damon Davis, who has been creating graffiti and wall art using posters of hands in the town. Davis has also collaborated with many of the local shops and businesses in creating his pieces. As he explains, though there are many managers and landowners who want to help and support the protesters, there are still some, who wants to remain “neutral”.  But as Davis noted:

 If you're making money off this community, there is no neutrality.  

Davis and other artists also were invited to participate or to send their work to the Wynwood protest vigil in Miami, held at the same time as the famous and widely publicized Miami Art Basel. This fair was attended by numerous celebrities and well-known artists, but was widely criticized for escapism this year.

There was, however, at least one work relating to the issue that outraged America in 2014, a hyper-realistic piece by Robert Longo, titled “Untitled (Ferguson Police August 13 2014)”. Some called the enormous painting “the most powerful piece at Art Basel Miami Beach”. In this dark painting, the ranks of police officers are depicted as a faceless and indifferent force, moving towards the viewers through a smoky haze of, presumably, tear gas.

Outside the grand Art Basel in Miami, however, imbued with the spirit of art, a vigil was organized during which those in attendance took a moment to remember the victims of police violence. On their Facebook page, the organizers of this vigil said:

Last night, we ‪#‎ShutItDown‬, we shut down the highway and part of‪#‎ArtBasel‬, largest art show in the country, calling for justice for‪#‎IsraelHernandez‬‪#‎MikeBrown‬‪#‎EricGarner‬ and countless other victims of police brutality!  

Special attention was drawn to the 2013 death of teenage graffiti artist Israel Hernandez, who was tasered to death by a police officer after being caught spray painting the side of an abandoned McDonald's. Hernandez was a talented street artist, who received several awards for his graffiti during his short lifetime. His death caused many protests against the abuses of tasers by police and became a subject of the documentary “Tasered: The Israel Hernandez Story”.

The rallies demanding justice for all victims of police brutality have also become an anti-racist movement in many states in America and their stories have reached across the globe. From graffiti in Brooklyn, New York, showing a boy with his arms raised and the words “Don't shoot”, to graffiti in London, England, showing a boy with one arm raised and the same words across his image:

Graffiti in Brooklyn, New York in support of the Ferguson, Missouri protests. Photo by Damien Derouene on Flickr.

Graffiti in Brooklyn, New York in support of the Ferguson, Missouri protests. Photo by Damien Derouene on Flickr.

Graffiti in London, England in support of the Ferguson, Missouri protests. Image widely circulated on the Internet.

Graffiti in London, England in support of the Ferguson, Missouri protests. Image widely circulated on the Internet.

In Ferguson, artist Damon Davis’ explained the importance of artists:

Artists play a vital role, telling these stories and keeping history alive. [The posters] are important for people who may be on the fence to see. Maybe they'll change their minds [and start supporting us]. And for those who aren't on our side … now they know we're still here. And we're not going to back down.

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

Learn more about Global Voices »

Donate now

Close