What Is Art Good For?

Expression in times of pain, anger, and sorrow.

Posted Jun 09, 2020

Photo by Anjan Chatterjee
Source: Photo by Anjan Chatterjee

Choppers overhead. Sirens blaring. Explosions in the distance. Big guns and riot gear. Curfews imposed. People corralled.

Not some faraway ravaged land. Philadelphia, June 2020. A view from a relatively affluent city neighborhood. A few blocks from Independence Hall. The birthplace of American freedom. A fragile freedom. A fleeting freedom. For some, a fictional freedom.

Art is good at expression. Expressing pain and anger and sorrow in times of distress.

A message scribbled on a wall in the heart of this city’s social convulsion. Protest giving voice to so many, many, many people silenced.

Can you hear us now?

Eight minutes and forty six seconds of a knee to a man’s neck. An eternity of cruelty distilled.

Photo by Anjan Chatterjee
Source: Photo by Anjan Chatterjee

George Floyd. And Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And David McAtee.

Can you hear us now?

A cry at the brutality of those who would claim to serve and protect. Who watches the watchmen?

Photo by Anjan Chatterjee
Source: Photo by Anjan Chatterjee

Tamir Rice. And Trayvon Martin. And Dreasjon "Sean" Reed. And Botham Jean. And Jamar Clark. And Ezell Ford. And Michelle Lee Shirley. And Redel Jones. And Kenney Watkins. And Laquan McDonald. And Alton Sterling. And Atatiana Jefferson.

Can you hear us now?

An entreaty to defund hate, while the city defunds its arts and culture programs.  

Photo by Anjan Chatterjee
Source: Photo by Anjan Chatterjee

Eric Garner. And Dontre Hamilton. And John Crawford III. And Akai Gurley. And Antonio Martin. And Jerame Reid. And Renisha McBride. And Charley Leundeau Keunang. And Tony Robinson. And Anthony Hill. And Meagan Hockaday. And Eric Harris.

Can you hear us now?

A long overdue take down of a divisive political figure. A past police chief and mayor with a legacy of racism and homophobia.

Photo by Anjan Chatterjee
Source: Photo by Anjan Chatterjee

Freddie Gray. And William Chapman. And Jonathan Sanders. And Sandra Bland. And Samuel DuBose. And Jeremy McDole. And Corey Jones. And Aiyana Jones. And Rekia Boyd.

Can you hear us now?

Assurance in the depths of despair. Naive? Hopeful? Hard to tell. It feels like something might change. I don't know.

Photo by Anjan Chatterjee
Source: Photo by Anjan Chatterjee

Philando Castille. And Joseph Mann. And Abdirahman Abdi. And Paul O’Neal. And Sylville Smith. And Terence Crutcher. And Keith Lamont Scott. And Alfred Olango. And Deborah Danner.

Can you hear us now?

Beyond the power to express, art hopes to transform. To see the world differently. To read the world differently. To hear the world differently. To be in the world differently. A promise to not forget.

Photo by Anjan Chatterjee
Source: Photo by Anjan Chatterjee

Michael Brown. And Larry Jackson Jr.. And Korryn Gaines. And Bruce Kelley Jr.. And Jocques Clemmons. And Jonathan Ferrell. And Walter Scott.

And. And. And….

Can you hear us now?