It has been 57 years since American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Delivered on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States.
“Those who Ignore History are destined to repeat it” -– George Santayana
And so it was these words that inspired me to paint this image soon after the Los Angeles riots of April 29, 1992.
The violence I’d witnessed in 1992 were identical to protests of 1960’s, with the villains similar to those we had fought against in WW2. I borrowed the Egyptian theme of hierarchy, (Which showed Pharaohs as larger figures while their servants appeared smaller), I then flipped this idea to show those who I felt to be heroes of human rights, marching together in victory, as the larger figures, while horrific images from American history and World Wars, mirrored each other on either side, as the protestors were violently pursued by the worst thugs of society.
I purposely chose to not include any celebrities , religious or overly political figures. Instead I primarily focused on regular folks doing amazing things. Sadly , many gave their lives in the fight for truth, human dignity, equality and justice.
It was the non-violent vs the extremely violent that I was attempting to show.
Not all the figures in this painting are famous or known by sight. Here I state their names and place in history: (HEROES) Left to right: American Indian couple / Harvey Milk, gay rights activist, murdered / Sitting Bull, American Indian hero / Southerner Truth, black emancipation and woman’s suffrage hero / Mamie Till Bradly (Mother of Emmett) & Emmett Till, (age 14) He was tortured and murdered by racists for speaking to a white woman. These racists were acquitted by an all white jury / Viola Liuzzo, housewife, civil rights fighter, murdered by the klan / Coretta Scott King & Martin Luther King, civil right leaders / Rosa Parks, refused to sit at the back of the bus / Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton, fought for woman right to vote / Harriet Tubman, established the Underground Railroad that brought slaves to freedom / Elizabeth Eckford, first child of color to enroll in all white high school / Ceasar Chavez, farmworker’s rights hero / Susan B. Anthony, fought for women’s right to vote & Margaret Sanger, fought for women’s right to birth control.
(VILLAINS): Left to Right: Adolf Hitler, dictator, tortured and murdered over fourteen million people including Jews, journalists, gays / Heinrich Himmler, leading member of the Nazi party, instigator of concentration camps, exterminated more than 6 million Jews in the Holocaust / Cecil Price, former deputy sheriff in Neshoba County, Miss., who was convicted of conspiracy in the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers / Mrs Roy Bryant, JW Milan & Roy Bryant, racists who murdered Emmett Till for talking to Mrs Bryant, acquitted by an all white jury / Robert Shelton, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan / David Duke, KKK, presidential candidate / Two Klansmen / Murderer of Viola Liusso.
It had been entry into to a billboard competition after the riots that had me take up my brush and got my inspiration flowing for many months. As it turned out, I’d been so engrossed researching the theme, I missed the deadline for the competition completely. The education I received was well worth my time. As it turned out, the painting was later included in a group show, Bury Racism, on view in West Hollywood in 1993. I was proud to exhibit with other artists that had also expressed their emotions about that difficult period of L.A. history.
The above color image will soon be available as a museum quality print via my store.