Each week throughout Spring 2020, a member of The Block’s team has offered selections that resonate with them at this moment. Today, Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts, chooses the platform to draw attention to a single event with relevance to our moment
“The images of police violence that have circulated over the last week are shocking but not surprising; in fact, they are painfully familiar, especially to communities whose calls for change in the face of such ongoing violence have not been heeded.
The Block strives to create a safe and welcoming space where audiences can come together to confront and discuss these traumatic images through exhibitions and events. Rather than offering three picks, today I’d like to draw attention to one event which took place in November 2019, when Northwestern graduate student Emeka Ekwelum organized a screening of the 2017 documentary WHOSE STREETS?, with filmmaker and activist Sabaah Folayan in attendance. This searing documentary depicts the uprising in Ferguson, MO that followed from the murder of Michael Brown; its scenes of a violent, militarized police response to the community’s calls for accountability are tragically being replayed throughout the country today.
Also present were Damon Williams and Kristiana Rae Colón, two Chicago organizers who cofounded the #Letusbreathe collective, an alliance of artists and activists organizing through a creative lens to imagine a world without prisons and police. The conversation between Damon, Kristiana, Sabaah, and Emeka was one of the most thoughtful and inspiring that I’ve experienced in my time at the Block; we’ve made this conversation available for listening on the Block’s Soundcloud page.
On Sunday, May 31, 2020 Damon Williams was assaulted by police and arrested during a protest in Hyde Park. He and several other activists were detained for several hours and were eventually released in the face of intense public pressure. Damon is one of many peaceful demonstrators who have been taken into custody at a time when jails and detention facilities present severe risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Our support goes out to Damon, his family and friends, and his fellow organizers. You can hear more of Damon’s insights by listening to his podcast, Airgo, at www.airgoradio.com, or follow them at twitter.com/airgoradio. More information about the #Letusbreathe collective can be found at https://www.letusbreathecollective.com/ “
Listen to Sabaah Folayan in conversation with Emeka Ekwelum,Kristiana Rae Colón, and Damon William.