Janine Macbeth Artist Statement
Each year the Akonadi Foundation releases a poster as one of its many efforts to “honor racial justice movement building in Oakland and inspire racial justice movement building in communities around the world.” For years posters were chosen through a contest – until this year! I’m honored to be the foundation’s first poster commission. Each year the poster commemorates March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was proclaimed by the United Nations after the Sharpeville uprising in South Africa in 1960. Read more about the Akonadi Foundation and the spirit of their annual poster here.
Thank you so much to Melanie and the Akonadi Foundation for this opportunity. Melanie gave me free range with the poster concept, and offered herself as a sounding board as needed. (She is an accomplished artist activist; you can learn more about her and her work here.)
As an added benefit of the poster commission, Akonadi granted $500 in my name to the Oakland nonprofit of my choice. I chose the Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network, an organization that trains parents to advocate for quality education in public schools. As an alum of Oakland Public Schools, and now a parent, their work especially resonated with me. You can learn more about Bay Area PLAN and get involved here.
The Poster Concept
I had three goals for this poster:
1) To affirm that racial justice and activism have always existed. Though our stories may be undocumented or untold, as people we have been fighting for our rights for … ever.
2) To celebrate cultural icons and figures as our superhero(in)s.
3) To connect activism, these cultural icons, and common everyday people as one and the same. We are the activists and the superhero(in)s; we are the icons.
I identified five cultural / spiritual / mythological figures, and depicted them as and from regular (and by definition, exceptional) people today.
These superhero(in) characters are (from left to right):
Occupy: The New Movement
Avalokitesvara: The Buddha of Compassion
Ma’at: The Egyptian Goddess of Truth & Justice
Huerta: Mother Warrior, contemporary activist
Nisien: A boy in Welsh mythology who represents Peace & Generosity, the opposite of his twin brother who represents chaos and destruction.
As part of Akonadi’s intention to inspire movement building, they have made the poster accessible by download on their website. Feel free to visit their site, and download and print a pdf of the poster for your personal use here!
Janine Macbeth is a nonprofit social justice worker by day, artist and illustrator by night, and mom to two boys 24:7. @j9macbeth