Kin Killin' Kin | National Civil Rights Museum
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This visually powerful and thought-provoking exhibition focuses on youth and gun violence in our communities. An exhibition of original works by Ohio artist James Pate from his highly acclaimed KKK series speaks to the need of engaging our youth in finding positive alternatives and solutions to the violence and negative behaviors that have reached epidemic levels in our urban and rural communities. James Pate uses charcoal to create compelling visual scenes of young black men donned in Ku Klux Klan hoods committing or in the act of committing violent acts. Pate's series was inspired by conversations he had in his own community, calling out the similarities between gang violence and the terrorism inflicted by the Ku Klux Klan. In the Kin Killin' Kin series, Pate reveals a negative social reality in the hope of finding collective and positive solutions to a problem that touches us all, directly or indirectly. It is evident that art and culture has the ability to play a role in saving our youth and community. Many African American youth do not have a positive self-image. They also do not have a strong sense of heritage and importance. Without this knowledge, it is easy to devalue or be destructive of others. The intent of the exhibition is to encourage youth to pause to reflect, question, and change negative behavior towards each other and the community.


The concept of using art to compare Black-on-Black terrorism to the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan came from conversations among us in the black community. It is often said that we (African Americans) are doing the business of the KKK with our Black-on-Black violence. The number of blacks murdered by other blacks since Civil War Reconstruction far exceeds those who were lynched by whites. Sadly, this pattern continued year after year, and still continues today. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1976 to 2000, 94 percent of black homicide victims in America were killed by other blacks.

I was moved to use art as a means of illustrating this tragedy; complete with black brothers in pointed hoods creating acts of violence in the "hood." Every piece that I complete is a way of accepting some of the responsibility for these acts of violence. Every piece is a moment of silence and dedication to the people who have had to deal personally with our losses.

I started working on the Kin Killin' Kin series in 2000. In the middle of producing the first piece, I decided that as a personal, private protest, I would compose renderings as long as these insidious acts continued.

This series may give the impression that I am launching an attack on the hip-hop movement of the last twenty-plus years and the behavior that creates violence. However, my art does not focus on the visible sore which results from violence, but the originating germ which breeds the dysfunction.

I wanted the overall appearance of these pieces to look somewhat like oversized storyboard frames that were created from a movie screenplay. The surface needed to be embellished with metaphoric symbolism. Precious innocent bystanders who are caught in the crossfire needed to share the canvas with the perpetrators, whom I also illustrate as victims. I depicted each episode of destruction as a chipping away at a person's essence, ancestry and heritage; a rich legacy of sacrifice, struggle, triumph, glory and their positive influences on the world.

I place historical imagery in some of the compositions with the hope that an adolescent will recognize the bloodline connection and feel a real sense of their heritage beyond their parents and grandparents. Like Jacob Lawrence's series of works, which depicts the south to north migration of the American Negro, I am chronicling this period in our history when "kin killed kin."

I hope that troubled youth, young adults, drug traffickers and gang members will see my art as negative scenarios that can only lead to a loss of hope, aspiration and human potential. This project is worth every stroke if one child is motivated to see himself as an artist and use art as a means for healthy survival and self-expression.

There is no doubt that this wound will heal. But until that day, I will channel my creative resources for the purpose of influencing change. This series will live on to remind us of a picture that begins to fade prior to being restored. The images will warn us not to repeat history. As shameful as this topic may be, the imagery in these renderings are intended to simply tell children the truth.


The masterful African American artist James Pate was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but raised in Cincinnati, where he earned a Corbett Award to attend the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Pate attended Central State University and continued to educate himself, and has since been a recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence grant and two Montgomery County Individual Artist Fellowships.

Pate is widely known for his idiosyncratic Techno-Cubism style, which fuses immaculate realism with spatial abstraction. He has, since 2000, worked on a powerful series of large charcoal drawings that criticize the problem of violence among black youth and resultant terrorism. Writer Janyce Glasper has commented eloquently on Pate's work: "Moving poetry, these realistic, fairly large charcoal drawings engage not just the viewer's eyes, but the actively processing mind. One can almost taste the salty tears from visceral sadness, touch the lifeless body that no longer has a heartbeat… In the aftermath of senseless blood-shed, there is nothing a viewer can do."

Pate is a winner of the highly competitive Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award grant and a two-time recipient of the Montgomery County Individual Artist Fellowship. In 2010, he won Best of Drawing, Best of Painting, and Best of Show at the nationally competitive Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago-an unprecedented ruling.

James Pate lives in Dayton, Ohio, where he designs instructional methods for encouraging at-risk students to stay in school for the Dayton Public Schools. He is also engaged in graphic design projects and fine arts production.

In the past decade, there has been an increased demand for his work by art collectors and contemporary art exhibitions.

Kin Killin' Kin Exhibit Photos

Your History II

Charcoal, 30″ x 40″
Collectionof Arthur Primas

In Your History II I am trying to communicate how a kin killing kin episode is synonymous with assisting the opposition who has an agenda to oppress, depress, or exterminate citizens.

Kin Killin' Kin Exhibit Photos

K, 2 Da K, 2Da K II

Charcoal, 30″ x 40″
Collection of Arthur Primas

This piece is largely a statement about misguided leadership. One of the characters proudly holds up a burning cross necklace that he's wearing.

Kin Killin' Kin Exhibit Photos

R.I.P. African Americans

Charcoal, 30″ x 40″
Collection of Arthur Primas

In the background of this piece, there is a crowd helplessly looking on as a drive-by shooting takes place. Superimposed within this composition is a childon a swing caught int he crossfire with a portion of his image incomplete.

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