By Kellie Chudzinski
Black Lives Matter protests poured into the streets of Los Angeles’ wealthiest neighborhoods in late May through early June, with more recent demonstrations spilling into nearby Westwood.
Playa del Rey, often noted as the city’s last sleepy beach town, was relatively unaffected by the thousands of protesters who took to the streets in nearby Venice and Santa Monica earlier this year. But moved by the need for equal justice and equality, local artist Rob Revere sought to use his art to give his neighbors a reminder of the daily fight Black communities face.
Following George Floyd’s death, Revere created vibrant illustrations in honor of Floyd, Elijah McClain and Breonna Taylor and other figureheads of the BLM movement. Printing copies in dozens, Revere took to local streets stapling his posters to Playa del Rey telephone poles.
“People could turn off the TV, they could turn off their phone. But I’m still gonna reach them on their front doorstep,” he says of his choice to engage directly with his community. “They could choose to ignore the things that we’re seeing, but… I’m going to make sure that they see it somehow.
“Usually when I’m taking a walk, I’m taking time away from my phone, away from the TV, and my guard is [down], I’m more receptive to the world around me,” he adds. “So I was thinking, if I could create something where I could catch somebody else when they’re in that same mental state, then it could be effective.”
One poster reads “Justice for Elijah McClain,” the 23-year-old Black man who died after a confrontation with Aurora, Colorado police in August 2019. The illustration shows a smiling McClain, in a red and white plaid shirt with a cat on his shoulder, and again in the background playing the violin. Some of the last words he spoke to police surround him, including “I’m a peaceful person,” “I don’t even kill flies.”
Revere says he hopes his vibrant artworks will draw in passersby — encourage viewers to feel a “connectedness” with the subjects of the posters — and “humanize” those who have died at the hands of police.
Another piece highlights Gianna Floyd, the six-year-old daughter of George Floyd whose brutal, videotapped death while in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day catalyzed thousands of BLM protests across the globe — daily — for weeks.
With her hair in Ghana braids, with pink and yellow beads at the ends, she raises a clenched fist in the air. On her blue and white baseball tee is a black and white illustration of her father, with tape over his mouth reading “I can’t breathe.” “It ends today,” is written in bubble letters above her head.
Revere began placing the posters around the neighborhood in mid-June, after protests swept across LA. Now, he continues to print dozens of his illustrations and place them around SoCal wherever he goes. He’s received support on social media from passersby who’ve encountered his artwork and even gotten some love from the Instagram account of Grammy Award-winning Afro-Latino R&B artist Miguel, who posted a picture of Revere’s “Justice for Breonna Taylor” poster to his account earlier this week.
While Revere says he “would go to the end of the world to try to bring justice” and plans to keep creating artwork in support of the BLM movement “until we see real change,” he is also not attempting to center himself in the conversation for racial justice and eschews a “white savior” mentality.
“I’m a white male,” he says. “Our actions as white people, they don’t end when we feel good about our efforts. Our actions end… when we see real reforms and when we see real change.”
Follow @rob_revere on Instagram for updates.