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.