Over the last several weeks, we’ve witnessed the killings of young, black and unarmed men by police officers. It seems as though just being black and breathing is a good-enough reason to send a barrage of bullets through a man’s body.
If we look back at these recent deaths, it’s clear that hunting season is in full effect and black people are the ones being hunted. There’s Eric Garner, who was killed after being put into an illegal choke hold by the New York City Police Department, and John Crawford, who was killed in an Ohio Wal-Mart store when cops mistook a toy gun he was holding for a real one. Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo., by police Officer Darren Wilson, and although the official account of why Wilson gunned down Brown has yet to emerge, I think it’s safe to assume that the Ferguson Police Department is carefully concocting a story.
Then there’s the most recent killing, of Kajieme Powell, just 3 miles away from Ferguson, by police officers who were responding to a shoplifting call. It only took those cops 14 seconds from the time they pulled up to the scene to fire off rounds into Powell’s body. It’s alleged that Powell was carrying a knife, but you know how that story goes.
What do you say when you’re standing in the line of fire? When a gun is pointed toward you and you have no idea what fate you’re about to meet? Those killings all took place over the last two months, but one journalist-artist, Shirin Barghi, has curated the final words of Brown, Crawford, Powell and other unarmed black males who died at the hands of someone in law enforcement (or, in the case of Trayvon Martin, someone who thought he was) and turned them into illustrations.
Barghi expressed why she created the illustrations in a series of tweets:
Powell’s is the most recent name added to Barghi’s illustrations, but the way things are going now, I’m quite sure he won’t be the last.