Ava DuVernay’s collective ARRAY continue to amplify voices and artists to help drive systemic change and representation with the release of WJ Lofton’s Breonna Taylor-inspired visual poem Would you like to kill too? Lofton is the second artist appointed for ARRAY’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP), a fund founded following the murder of George Floyd to catalyze creative expression around police violence.
Lofton’s visual poem questions plainclothes officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Subway Police Department who shot and killed Taylor, 26, in his Louisville, Ky. Apartment last year . Lofton’s poem is accompanied by a visual interpretation commissioned by LEAP. In the artwork, Lofton describes the oppressive systems that destroyed and ignored Breonna’s life while allowing her murderers to continue with their lives.
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“The powerful visual poem by WJ Lofton Do you want to kill God too? is a clarion call for justice in the extremely tragic case of Breonna Taylor. At the center of WJ’s poem are the names of the three police officers who killed her: Mattingly, Hankison and Cosgrove, ”said Mercedes Cooper, vice president of public programming at ARRAY. “In this work, the artist demands visibility and responsibility, ensuring that his assassins do not go unnamed and unknown.
“Paying attention and telling the truth about what happened in America, without the distortions of the white imagination, can relieve this country of the burden of innocence,” Lofton said in a statement. “My poetry confronts oppressive systems that not only ignore marginalized people, but kill them as the privileged class go on with their lives.
He continued, “By questioning the interruptions caused in the lives of Black Folk, I connect a pattern of perseverance, joy and daring from the past, present and future of black people. By telling the truth, I am disrupting the lie that this nation is innocent. The blood of black, queer, trans, indigenous and women saturates the soil of this country and we must never be silent about it.
Launched in December, the LEAP fund commissions projects in multiple disciplines, including film, literature, poetry, theater, dance, fine arts and music. LEAP is envisioned as a two-year project to catalyze a minimum of 25 artist commissions. The Ford Foundation was one of LEAP’s first funders.
Photographer Steven Irby (aka Steve Sweatpants) was the first LEAP Fellow. Irby’s photo essay, 41 to 99, amplifies the murderous actions of four New York Police Department officers: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon, and Kenneth Boss. The men murdered a 23-year-old Guinean immigrant, Amadou Diallo, at the entrance to his apartment in the Bronx on February 4, 1999. The plainclothes police fired a total of 41 shots, 19 of which hit Diallo. All four police officers were found not guilty.
Lofton is an Atlanta-based poet, writer, editor, director, and songwriter, focusing his work on the intersections of black queer identity. His poetry and essays have been featured in Scalawag Magazine, Obsidian: Literature and the Arts in the African Diaspora, among others. He is also the author of A garden for black boys between soil and stardust steps.
Watch the visual poem above and read the text Do you want to kill God too? below.
some women will not arrive in the spring
lie down in Kentucky bluegrass
we will die in the arms of our lover inside the hallway
of their house and he will desperately seek mercy to manifest himself
out of the blue like the bullets did a few minutes ago
the hot metal of hell shot at the scalp from the walls until it coughed up gypsum
in four hundred years you have never knocked
before entering – never entered without leaving a breath undone
or a stuck body – bend over briefly and beg for a better way
die – we bury our babies while you polish your badges
break the batons on the backs of our loved ones
Officers Cosgrove, Mattingly, Hankison
how many nights have you hid the stench of homicide?
stored in the furthest pockets of your dreams
how do you explain this to your children
Did you tell them the blood on your shoes belonged
to a black girl or isn’t she worth mentioning
have you made a mirror of his blood
did you stick to it? God was in the room
when you slaughtered someone’s child – for how long
does a man dream of murder before his index finger finds
the small metal body of a pistol? did the clouds look like smoke
March 13? what does the sky look like before a murder?
Officers, have you seen the sun go down?
Was God standing on the horizon?
Did you want to reach out and kill her too?
would you kill God too?
was heaven too far away or your legs
too short? some women will not arrive
in spring to lay eggs in bluegrass
some will survive to swing the steel
a stopper to warn your necks
no death happens tonight
no prisoners will be taken