'Artists have a responsibility to stand with Ferguson'

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dozens of artists, musicians and writers from around the world have signed the open letter below, such as hip-hop artist Boots Riley and music journalist and Red Wedge Magazine editor Alexander Billet. It is reprinted from Red Wedge Magazine, where the full list of names can be found.

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In Saturday, August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri (just outside St Louis), Michael Brown, an unarmed eight-teen year old African American man, was shot and killed by the police. His body was left on the street for more than four hours as riot police were called to the scene.

In the following days thousands of people have protested the latest summary execution of an unarmed Black man. They have been met with police brutality and repression, resulting in dozens of arrests, including the arrests of two reporters and a police assault on one St Louis city alderman.

The apologists for racism attempted to use the justified and understandable outrage of those who burned a local convenience store to obscure the real criminals in Ferguson: police and politicians who treat the town’s Black citizens like colonial subjects; occupied by military force.

The apologists for racism have aimed to obscure the ongoing wounds being inflicted on working-class and poor African Americans by pretending this is all a misunderstanding; a hangover from days long gone.

It is not. These are not merely old wounds. These are new wounds. The wounding has never stopped.

We are artists and writers who, without equivocation of any kind, condemn the police murder of Michael Brown and unconditionally support all the protesters of Ferguson and the St. Louis metro area.

We believe that:

1. The reported murders of African Americans, Latinxs (the “x” indicates inclusiveness individuals of all gender expressions) and other people of colour, as seen in the cases of Trayvon Martin and Israel Hernandez in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, are just the most shocking and visible signs of a campaign of systematic harassment and violence.

2. This is connected to wider ongoing official racism directed against African Americans, Latinxs and other people of colour. This can be seen, for example, in the campaign of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to shut down public schools in Black and Latinx neighborhoods.

3. It is connected to the institutional racism that permeates every aspect of society. African Americans experience higher unemployment, higher interest rates, higher incarceration rates, worse health care outcomes, etc. than whites. This is not due to personal or moral failures on the part of African Americans. It is the product of the racism of white Americans, politicians, and ruling elites.

4. The people of Ferguson have a right to resist police murder and repression by “any means necessary”.

5. Liberal calls for “peace and unity” in the St Louis metro area are a mirage. There can be no peace without justice. The status quo is not peace. The status quo is a war on Black men and women.

Artists, musicians and writers have a responsibility to stand squarely with the protesters and rebels of Ferguson, Missouri. Art is an empathetic enterprise. We cannot, in good conscience, make art or write about art and ignore what is happening.

We promise to stand, however we can, with the people of Ferguson. We encourage all others to do the same. No justice, no peace.

From GLW issue 1022