by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
The New Pittsburgh Courier has learned exclusively that the University of Pittsburgh will showcase the artwork of local artists which best describes what “Black Lives Matter” means to them.
The exhibition will be titled, “Don’t Look Away: Because Mattering is the Minimum.” Approximately 30 pieces of art will be selected for display onto mesh canvas panels, which will be seen outdoors on Pitt’s main campus and other campuses.
The artists whose artwork is selected for the exhibition will receive $500.
“‘Black Lives Matter’ as a slogan is the culmination of hundreds of years of effort, fighting, resilience, and sacrifice on the part of Black leaders, activists, trailblazers, and visionaries,” read an overview of the initiative on the Pitt website. “Following the tradition of the United States’ Civil Rights Movement, it is the call demanding that everyone, from our government to our neighbors, recognize the patterns of structural harms and inequity that target Black people on a social, economic, and political level.”
Pitt said the exhibition “will recognize the work done and the work still left to do to achieve true equity: to not only honor the lives we have lost and affirm that Black lives do indeed matter, but also to celebrate and spotlight the Black experience as essential to our community’s future. Works might retrieve the lessons learned from past generations about love, family, and supporting one another; reflect on breaking cycles of generational trauma and how to create new and just futures; respond to the contemporary movement and how it has changed the public consciousness; and remind the world that outside of death, there is Black life. Because mattering is the minimum.”
The criteria for submission includes: open to artists of Western Pa. and to Pitt students, faculty, staff and alumni; no more than three submissions per artist or artist group; artwork must be able to be reproduced at a high resolution in photo or video form; artwork must be submitted online by Dec. 1, 2020, at midnight eastern.
The selection committee will be comprised of Pitt representatives and community members from local Black arts organizations, the Courier has learned.
Pitt also wants artists who submit works to respect the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, specifically: embracing the concept of a civil community, which abhors violence, theft and exploitation of others; supporting a culture of diversity by respecting the rights of those who differ from themselves; contributing to the development of a caring community where compassion for others and freedom of thought and expression are valued; and honoring, challenging and contributing to the scholarly heritage left by those who preceded them, while working to make the world a better place for those who follow.
DR. KATHY HUMPHREY, center, is Pitt’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement. She is leading the charge on this initiative. (Photo by Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
“Black Lives Matter” is a movement that began in July 2013 by three Black women—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. The organizers said it was created in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a self-described community vigilante who shot an unarmed 17-year-old Black teen, Trayvon Martin, in Florida in 2012.
Black Lives Matter “is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression,” as said on BLM’s official website.
The Black Lives Matter movement gained steady traction through the deaths of Mike Brown, a Black man shot and killed by a White Missouri police officer in 2014, Philando Castile, a Black man fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer in 2016, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood by a White father-and-son duo earlier this year.
But earlier this year on May 25, “Black Lives Matter” became the rallying cry across the world when a White Minneapolis police officer killed a Black man, George Floyd, by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes—the encounter captured on video.
In cities throughout America and the world, there were protests and marches to decry racial injustice and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Sports leagues like the NBA and Major League Baseball participated in protest by canceling games; the mostly-Black NBA players even contemplated canceling the remainder of its playoffs. Statues of men and women who had pushed a racist agenda or participated in racist actions were torn down, such as Christopher Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio. Christopher Columbus’ name had “become increasingly linked not to a legacy of exploration and discovery, but to the violent colonization that followed his arrival in the Americas and the catastrophic effect it has had on existing civilizations,” read a note in a story on National Public Radio’s website from July.
“Black Lives Matter” was plastered across NBA basketball courts, NFL stadiums, and on streets of cities like Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New York, and Portland. Black Lives Matter murals were painted pretty much everywhere you could imagine in various cities.
In Pittsburgh, the words “Black Lives Matter” were painted along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail along the Allegheny River, Downtown. A “Black Lives Matter” Pittsburgh contingent was founded online by Tanisha Long. Pittsburgh saw its share of protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement, the vast majority of them peaceful.
To submit artwork…
or visit diversity.pitt.edu
DR. KATHY HUMPHREY is Pitt’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement. She is leading the charge on this initiative.