‘Circle of Mothers Project’ Honors Those Who Have Lost Their Black Sons to Police Brutality
The blood of innocent Black men and women unlawfully killed at the hands of police has stained the landscape of America for years. From the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Travyon Martin in Sanford, Florida to the point-blank shot that killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, the issues of police violence and racial discrimination clearly still persist in the U.S. Not only do these tragic deaths leave behind grieving communities, but most importantly, grieving mothers.
This is why artist Syliva Maier has decided to feature these courageous women in her upcoming exhibit titled, “The Circle of Mothers Project,” The Huffington Post reports. The series will include a collection of oil paintings depicting women who endured the normal ups and downs of motherhood, but whose lives were changed forever when their children were killed by those appointed to “protect and serve.”
Artist Sophia Dawson painted a colorful mural in Brooklyn, New York with a similar purpose: to honor Black mothers whose children’s lives were taken by law enforcement.
“These mothers, they are the living victims,” Maier told The Huffington Post. “Living with the loss of their children.”
The artist’s project was inspired by Circle of Mothers, a national support group established by Sybrina Fulton in 2012 following the death of her son Trayvon Martin. The network provides “resources in assisting affected mothers reconcile, heal, empower, and fellowship toward personal restoration and ultimately community building,” according to its official website.
“I pray for strength for any mother,” Fulton explained to Essence in a 2014 interview. “I pray for healing. I would just hope that she could return to the life that she had before because it’s very difficult. It’s like you’re missing an arm or leg or something and then you’re supposed to still function without it.”
Maier says she was surprised at how many mothers were affected by police violence, asserting that all of them could probably wrap a city block multiple times. With her artwork, Maier hopes to make more people aware of this crisis in Black communities where mothers are grappling with the loss of their children.
“It’s not a political thing,” she said. “It’s a human thing. I want the mother in Westchester to relate to these images as much as the mother in the Bronx.”
Each portrait is presented against a black backdrop and the white outline of an American coin. The phrases “in God We Trust” and “Liberty” are painted alongside the name of the child who was killed. The words provide a juxtaposition between the ideals of America’s Founding Fathers and the discriminatory society African-Americans experience today.
“Their children were denied liberty just because of the way they looked in a racist society,” Maier said. “It’s not just prejudice when it infringes on someone’s rights to live and be happy and pursue an education. It’s hypocritical to see those words on a coin. Does it mean ‘liberty for all’? What makes people think only some of us deserve liberty?”
Maier told The Huffington Post she made to sure to talk to and get to know each of the subjects before she started the painting process. She inquired about what they had been through and made it a point to accurately capture the unique personality of each woman.
The collection includes portraits of Hawa Bah, the mother of Mohamed Bah, whose son was fatally shot by New York City police in September 2012; Constance Malcolm, mom of Ramarley Graham, whose 18-year-old son was shot and killed by a police officer in the Bronx; and Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, whose son was killed by a NYPD officer’s use of a chokehold in December 1994.
According to The Huffington Post, Maier’s “The Circle of Mothers Project” will be displayed at Gallery Josephine in Martha’s Vineyard from May 28 to June 13, 2016.