Ava DuVernay’s collective ARRAY keeps on amplifying voices and artists to help push systemic change and representation with the release of W.J. Lofton’s Breonna Taylor-inspired visual poem Would You Kill Go Too? Lofton is the second artist commissioned for ARRAY’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP), a fund founded in the wake of George Floyd’s murder to catalyze creative expression around police violence.
Lofton’s visual poem questions plainclothes officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department who fatally shot 26-year-old Taylor in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment last year. Lofton’s poem is accompanied by a visual interpretation commissioned by LEAP. In the artwork, Lofton describes the oppressive systems which destroyed and disregarded Breonna’s life while allowing her murderers to continue with their lives.
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“W.J. Lofton’s powerful visual poem Would You Kill God Too? is a clarion call for justice in the infuriatingly tragic case of Breonna Taylor. At the center of W.J.’s poem are the names of the three police officers who killed her: Mattingly, Hankison and Cosgrove,” said ARRAY Vice President of Public Programming, Mercedes Cooper. “Within this work, the artist demands visibility and accountability, making certain that her killers will not go unnamed and unknown.”
“Paying attention and telling the truth about what has happened in America, without the distortions of the white imagination can absolve this country from the burden of innocence,” said Lofton in a statement. “My poetry confronts the oppressive systems which not only disregard marginalized folk, but kills them as the privileged class continue on with their lives.”
He continued, “By interrogating the interruptions caused in the livelihood of Black Folk, I connect a trend of perseverance, joy, and audacity from the past, present, and Black futures. By telling the truth I disrupt the lie that this nation is innocent. The blood of Black, queer, trans, indigenous, and women folk saturates this country’s soil and we must never be quiet about that.”
Launched in December, the LEAP fund commissions projects across multiple disciplines including film, literature, poetry, theater, dance, fine art and music. LEAP is envisioned as a two-year project to catalyze a minimum of 25 artist commissions. The Ford Foundation was an inaugural funder of LEAP.
Photographer Steven Irby (aka Steve Sweatpants) was the first LEAP grantee. Irby’s photo essay, 41 To ’99, amplifies the deadly actions of four New York City Police Department officers: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss. These men murdered 23-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in the doorway of his Bronx apartment on February 4, 1999. The plainclothes officers fired a total of 41 shots, 19 of which struck Diallo. All four officers were found not guilty.
Lofton is an Atlanta-based poet, writer, editor, director, and songwriter centering his work on the intersections of Black queer identity. His poetry and essays have been featured in Scalawag Magazine, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, among others. He is also the author of A Garden for Black Boys Between the Stages of Soil and Stardust.
Watch the visual poem above and read the text Would You Kill God Too? below.
some women will not arrive in the springtime
to lay in the bluegrass of Kentucky
one will die in the arms of her lover inside the hallway
of their home and he will look desperately for mercy to show up
unannounced as the bullets did just minutes before
the hell hot metal shot into the walls’ scalp until it coughed gypsum
in four hundred years you never have knocked
before entering — never entered without leaving a breath undone
or a body taken — bending brief and begging for a better way
to die — we bury our babies as you polish your badges
break batons over our beloveds’ backs
Officers Cosgrove, Mattingly, Hankison
how many nights have you hid the stench of homicide?
tucked it in the farthest 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 is she not worth mentioning
did you make a mirror out of her blood
did you stand in it? God was in the room
when you made a massacre out of someone’s child—how long
does a man daydream about murder before his index finger finds
the small metal body of a gun? did the clouds resemble smoke
on March 13th? what does the sky before a murder look like?
Officers, did you see the sun set?
was God standing at 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
just too short? some women will not arrive
in the springtime to lay in the bluegrass
some will survive to swing the steel
of a switchblade to warn your necks
no dying happens tonight
no prisoners will be taken
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