Artist Titus Kaphar painted the portrait that appears on the cover of this week’s TIME. He has written the following piece to accompany the work.
In her expression, I see the Black mothers who are unseen, and rendered helpless in this fury against their babies.
As I listlessly wade through another cycle of violence against Black people,
I paint a Black mother…
holding the contour of her loss.
Is this what it means for us?
Are black and loss
analogous colors in America?
If Malcolm could not fix it,
if Martin could not fix it,
Now George Floyd…
can be murdered
and nothing changes…
wouldn’t it be foolish to remain hopeful?
Must I accept that this is what it means to be Black
I have given up trying to describe the feeling of knowing that I can not be safe in the country of my birth…
How do I explain to my children that the very system set up to protect others could be a threat to our existence?
How do I shield them from the psychological impact of knowing that for the rest of our lives we will likely be seen as a threat,
and for that
We may die?
A MacArthur won’t protect you .
A Yale degree won’t protect you .
Your well-spoken plea will not change hundreds of years of institutionalized hate.
You will never be as eloquent as Baldwin,
you will never be as kind as King…
isn’t it only reasonable to believe that there will be no
And so those without hope…
This Black mother understands the fire.
I can change NOTHING in this world,
but in paint,
I can realize her….
This brings me solace…
She walks me through the flames of rage.
My Black mother rescues me yet again.
I want to be sure that she is seen.
I want to be certain that her story is told.
America must hear her voice.
America must believe her.
I will not let her go.