NICO Installation at Bethany Pres – “Black Lives Matter”
Local northwest artist NICO created this piece with scripture-laden instruction from the Arts team. The piece is dedicated to the Black and Latino community.
The mural displays a crowd of protesters, mostly black, but also brown skinned and white persons, with the phrase overhead “Black Lives Matter.” John Lewis, the civil rights and non-violence activist, is pictured along with a likeness of George Floyd, killed in Minneapolis in May.
Art is designed to evoke emotions from us and move us. The piece pulls us to three key elements:
1) Of course, the phrase Black Lives Matter is prominent. This phrase is important for us as Christians. The mistake by some is to interpret the phrase as “only black lives matter.” But the phrase implies not a prefix but a suffix, “black live matter too.” Therefore, the phrase “all lives matter” will not suffice. True, Americans from centuries ago founded a country where “all men are created equal,” and we recite our allegiance to the American flag and to the republic for which it stands, indivisible “with liberty and justice for all.” We need to say “black lives matter,” because when we have said “all” before it did not include black lives, or indigenous or brown lives.
2) The other message this art piece evokes has to do with hearing. The vast majority of protests in America over the last five months have been nonviolent. Unfortunately, some have turned violent and property has been destroyed. But I cannot let broken glass and burned buildings keep me from listening to the real cry in America. Martin Luther King Jr. was an adamant critic of violence in any kind of protest. Yet, even he remarked that a “riot is the voice of the unheard.” This art challenges us, “Are you listening?”
The Bible is clear that God listens to the cry of those left out, the marginalized. In Exodus 22, God declares that the Lord’s people shall not oppress or abuse the immigrant, the widow or the orphan – a classic reference to Israel’s marginalized.
“If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn.”
3) Finally, we’re reminded of the verse from 1 Corinthians 12:26, “When one hurts, we all hurt.” And of the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” This is another salient feature of the piece. Just as Jesus’ incarnation was a way of standing with us, we, in our own lives and as a church, want to stand with our neighbors.
“Give the oppressed reason to celebrate” Isaiah 1:17Are we in tune with God’s ears? How about God’s voice? Two of the protestors in the mural have heard God speak through the prophets as they carry placards with these words:
- “But let justice flow like a river, and let goodness flow like a never-ending stream” Amos 5:24