Young Artists Use Creativity to Show Solidarity with Black Lives Matter Protestors

Tony Robinson Mural, on the University Bookstore in downtown Madison, created by Alana Caire, Amira Caire and Danielle Mielke.

The resurgence of Black Lives Matter, following the public killing of George Floyd, has motivated creative activism among Madison’s youth demanding a voice for social change. Plywood-covered businesses along State Street, most closed during coronavirus closures and looting, became ideal canvasses for talented artists supporting the protests police brutality and systemic racism.

Alana Caire, a 2020 West High School graduate, is among them. On the corner of State and Lake streets, on the university bookstore, Caire and her siblings, painted a beautiful mural to honor Tony Robinson, an unarmed young man fatally shot by police in 2015. 

UMOJA: What would you say contributed to your decision to join the movement?

Alana:  I have a simple answer for you. I am Black, I am young, and not only is it my job to step up to help my people, but what better way to help bring awareness to the ongoing struggles of the Black community if not through our youth? Our youth are the next generation. If we show the world that WE see what’s going on, maybe they’ll finally listen. 

UMOJA: What message and/or change do our young adults want to see? And, do you think you will see it in your lifetime?

Alana: I can’t speak for all Black youth, we all have different goals. But I think a lot of us want to see more funding put into Black communities, so we can build our businesses without worry of being shut down because white people fear our success. We want more institutional programs made specifically for us; we want to actually be seen and heard in our elementary schools, all the way up to high school. We want teachers who won’t use micro-aggressions to discriminate against us; teachers that won’t put us in the hallways over petty things like laughing with our friends during classroom discussion, nor make assumptions about our Black youth and administer punishments accordingly just because we are Black—I’ve experienced this enough times. We will see this in my lifetime. I, along with all my other Black brothers and sisters will make sure we do, and establish this foundation for our generations to come.

UMOJA: Why was the mural created? What do you want those who see it to feel or moved to do?

Alana: My sister, our friend and I created the mural for Tony a Robinson because (1) his death was soon brushed off as a mere incident, and (2) because Matt Kenny walked away with the life he took and is still enabled to do so. The police department said he followed protocol when handling the situation. 

Different people derive messages from different things, so we used art to portray the beautiful young man whose life was cut short over a petty decision. I want the piece to evoke emotions the viewer either has not wished to feel, or to remember the young man who was handled like a caged animal in a zoo. I want those who have not heard of Tony Robinson to think of him, and all the other young Black youth that have been unlawfully taken from this world. And if they choose to join the cause, to participate in the protests, to spread awareness across their platform, then I know we’ll have done our job.

UMOJA: What role does art play in protesting or social/justice movement.

Alana: Art is another way of expression. A story can go a long way in explaining what happened, but visual representations can not only explain a story in a few strokes, but tell the whole story without uttering a word. People get to define what art means for themselves, instead of being told. And if their version is all the more gripping, then perhaps they’ll understand better the situation at hand. In terms of the movement and more explicit pieces, one can either look at a piece as a violent display, or the reality of our people. And that in itself, cannot be policed. If people feel threatened by it, then we know there are those who simply cannot and will not handle change, especially through justified anger.

Take a look at her work and a sampling of others the exemplifies Black Excellence.