Last year Public Welfare Foundation commissioned artist Kaliq Crosby to create two murals inside of the True Reformer Building that honor the building’s historical significance and share Public Welfare Foundation’s vision. The murals were unveiled earlier this year. The Foundation asked Mr. Crosby to reflect on this experience and the importance of art in social justice movements for our blog. He shares his thoughts below. – PWF
I Want Rebellion
By Kaliq Crosby
I want my art to be used as a symbol of rebellion! In every country art is used to combat propaganda and represents everyone’s wish for equality. My strongest tool against government corruption and years of misleading history is art with a positive message. I produce artwork on a large scale with high contrast, bright colors and bold portraits that is intended to remind African Americans of their forgotten accomplishments. There were times when we had nothing outside of our own communities as support. My murals are a reminder of why we need stronger communities with story tellers, engineers, craftsman, poets and scholars.
Social Justice is a global issue and people on every continent use art as a means to release their frustration, and share their stories. Labor strikes, unfair incarceration, political assassination and other crucial events in history have been recorded through art. My rebellion from years of unfair treatment is leaving a trail of art that mimics the brilliance and beauty of my people. The building that now houses Public Welfare Foundation was a True Reformer Project. It was the first in the nation to be designed, financed, built and owned by African Americans after reconstruction. We haven’t reclaimed some of the accomplishments we made immediately following slavery, before the height of lynchings and Jim Crow laws. My fear is we will forget the inventions, scientific discoveries, and contributions African Americans have made.
Without an understanding of our native language, religion, and culture African Americans have been forced to create a new lifestyle in the likeness of Europeans. The True Reformers mural is a record of my people and our attempt at reclaiming our identity. We need a visual timeline of our accomplishments at the beginning of the 20th century. The general public still has a fear of African Americans and does not yet view them as equals.
I designed the mural for Public Welfare Foundation to represent various milestones from the construction of the True Reformers Building in 1903 to present day struggles for justice. We had so much information that it was tough to decide what to include in the mural. Along with three artists, I painted Duke Ellington performing his first paid performance, Joe Louis training as a member of the YMCA, and pivotal events from various other decades.
It’s my responsibility to create images that empower my people by reminding them of what we’ve endured and survived in America. It lays a foundation for how much still needs to be done. I want my community to take charge of our neighborhoods, rebuild and continuously support black businesses. This mural allowed me to meld all of my goals into one piece. I managed to preserve our legacy and expose hidden history while inspiring a new generation of soldiers in the movement for social justice.