The digital portrait series, 'Justice For Our Lives', responds to current police killings of marginalized people with production of a portrait of the individual victims. I profile people who are prime targets of police violence like black and brown, indigenous, immigrant, LGBTQ, women, and the mentally disabled to make the necessary connections on the intersections of our struggles against racial injustice and prejudice. The designs are set up on my website (www.justiceforourlives.com) for individuals to download and share online, at demonstrations, in classrooms, art galleries, businesses and anywhere else that will promote conversations around police brutality. The simple black and white portraits are offered as templates to be manipulated and reproduced in any form allowing versatility in the ways these images can be presented. Collaboration with the families, activists, and organizers ensures that this work promotes active engagement of the community as an essential element of producing art for social change.
In this country, we have a serious problem with violence perpetrated on communities of color. At the core of this is the way in which patriarchy and the culture of white supremacy is steeped into the fabric of our society especially within the ruling class. It has made black people and other marginalized communities subject to police terrorism, unfair housing practices, unequal employment opportunities, lack of educational investment and access to medical care amongst other disadvantages. The struggle to survive in this environment has led many to endure the circumstances and resort to unfortunate situations that sometimes result in encounters with police, and in many cases do not survive. This project does not represent perfect victims but instead victims of generational genocide, enslavement and discrimination at the hands of the state.
The portrait designs aim to primarily serve as a tool for families who have lost loved ones to police violence and are seeking justice. The designs are printed on posters, banners, and t-shirts that effectively brand their presence during public demonstrations and also as a means to raise money to cover heavy financial burdens. Aesthetic consistency presented by other other families help facilitate bonds and collaborations that bolster a supportive community. In the classroom teachers are able to develop lesson plans using my art as a resource for their students. In art galleries, the viewers are able to engage with each portrait and be affected by each story. Finally, the dissemination of these designs online help
spread the message farther and wider than ever before.
This project was inspired by the rich history of art and political activism in The Bay Area. Since the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant by the Oakland Police Department, the movement towards police accountability prompted artists like Dignidad Rebelde to remind us, with the production of their portrait series, that black & brown people killed by police mattered. Artist John Paul Bail exemplified the power of communal reproduction and sharing political art during public demonstrations like Occupy Oakland. In 2013, responding to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, the global call to end police terrorism on the black community was reignited by the #blacklivesmatter network founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. As an individual art project, 'Justice For Our Lives' has developed from the foundation laid down by the countless artists, activists, and social movements that have emerged out of Oakland and the rest of the Bay Area.
Oree Originol is an artist born on September 11 1984 in Los Angeles, Ca. As a child he discovered his talent in drawing cartoon figures at school and at home. His love for drawing and being surrounded in gang culture encouraged him to develop his skills in graffiti art. In his neighborhood his friends would call him “Orejas”, a Spanish name commonly used for a person with big ears. He initially used that name as his alias until eventually it evolved to “Oree”, With his originol style, he got his name up in the streets of LA but it wasn't until 2009 when he moved to The Bay Area that he began to exhibit his artwork in galleries and decided to develop an art career. He began an internship at Pueblo Nuevo Gallery in Berkeley, CA where he exhibited his first solo show, ‘Origin’, and provided the launching pad for his art career. He then joined forces with the artist network CultureStrike.net and Favianna Rodriguez on projects supporting migrant rights which taught him the role of art in social activism. On January 1, 2014 he started the ‘Justice For Our Lives’ art project, a portrait design series of people from marginalized communities who have been killed by police. His black and white portraits are set up online for download, printing and dissemination. His designs have been used in public demonstrations worldwide from San Francisco, CA to Paris, France. In the Bay Area, they where used in key demonstrations like the West Oakland BART station shutdown, OPD shut down, Mission Police Station shut down, #sayhername financial district shut down, SuperBowl City disruption, and #reclaimMLK Bay Bridge shut down among countless others. In 2016 he exhibited in the “Take this Hammer” group exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, was featured as a cover story for the SF Examiner, recognized for the East Bay Express, “Best of the Bay – The Peoples Edition” award, and was featured in a KQED Arts mini documentary. He continues developing his art and activism and sharing his skills with the Bay Area community and beyond.