I am honored to have my contribution to the @forfreedoms 2020 Awakening Campaign live on my island home. National government and mainstream media habitually marginalize the U.S. territories within the Caribbean. This campaign brings long overdue attention back to the islands and engages them as equal members.

I’m of mixed ancestry with African, Spanish and Taino roots. Indigenous People’s Day represents a correction to the biased narrative we have been led to believe as truth. St. Croix was the site of one of the first armed clashes between Europeans and American natives, on Nov 1493. So the conversation of Indigenous rights and the impact of colonization sit squarely within the history of St. Croix. The fight against colonialism was shared by both the Indigenous and African populations. Fireburn, the labor riot of Oct 1878, was another significant revolt against colonialism.

The phrase on my banner “Does Black innocence matter?” is a play off of Black Lives Matter. I want the viewer to question their perception of Black innocence from all perspectives, including historical, legal and ethical viewpoints. This banner is an extension of my painting titled “Inocensia Negra”. A painting I created, during the summer 2020, following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. This painting depicts 3 young Black boys playing in the ocean. They represent the innocence of my 2 sons and that of all Black children. Too often, the youth of boys within the African diaspora is stolen. Whether it be at the hands of police, mass incarceration, media stigmatization, etc. This work celebrates the youth of Black children; It returns it to them. It speaks to the Black child that now has images that honor all stages of their beautiful healthy lives. I long for this future; A future where our youth can approach each day with bright eyes knowing that this world cherishes their brilliance.

This project would not have happened without the partnership of longtime friend and collaborator, Virgin Islands curator @monicamarinstx. Big thanks to my ohana here in Hawai’i and abroad.

Photo credit: @chalanabrownphotography