Artists Against Police Brutality or APB, is an anthology developed by Bill Campbell, the writer and owner of Rosarium Publishing, in response to the Staten Island Grand Jury decision in 2014 to not indict the officers that choked Eric Garner to death….and other related events.
APB is one of those books that is so important but is a very intense read. If you’re African-American, no…if you’re human, the stories will affect you on a visceral level. It took me awhile to get through this anthology and I actually thought that posting a review now might no longer be timely. Then David Joseph was shot this week and I was again reminded how important this work and others like it actually are. Not only to shine a light on the institutionalized methods of police brutality but to give people an outlet for the flood of emotions that often come from the constant media barrage of what often is portrayed as justifiable homicide at the hands of the police.
To be clear, APB is not just a morbid statistical recounting of every Black person shot and killed by the police in 2015, (although the last pages of the book do include this list.) Nor does it seek to vilify police officers and make martyrs out of every Black person killed at the hands of a police officer in recent years. This work is an artistic rendering of stories running the gamut from heart-wrenching to academic to philosophical to some that invoked such an angry response that I had to put the book down for days before I came back to it. There are also other narratives that are wonderfully poignant and some that made me laugh out loud.
APB is not all about how evil the police are nor is it all about how innocent the victims are. What APB does is bring the humanity back to stories that are so violently commonplace, that we, the public are no longer phased by them.
“What we desire is to simply further the dialogue, make some people see this debate in a different light, perhaps change a mind or two, and, most importantly, exercise our freedom of speech in honor of all those who have had their voices silenced.” – Bill Campbell
There is prose, sketches, posters, art, comics, science fiction and nonfiction included in the work along with stories of survival and change amidst institutionalized racism and abuse. APB also includes a number of pieces with non-Black protagonists, such as a contribution from Jerome Walford, who tells the story of a White police officer who is trying to change the system; Ka Yan Cheung, a Chinese citizen who has been affected by the tragedies, Keith Miller and Chuck Collins, who told their story through the eyes of an alien race of oppressed people being systematically murdered off-world and Aaron Rand Freeman and J. Andrew World who basically wrote a script on what to say when confronted with the phrase “All Lives Matter”.
What also impressed me were the voices of Black women, so often overlooked in the media cries of protest (save the images of grieving widows and mothers), including Ytasha Womack and Andaiye Reeves, who contributed their perspectives to APB. Ytasha penned a moving celebration of her Uncle’s life before he was killed by police and Andaiye shared a story about the fear she has for her autistic son, should he ever be confronted by law enforcement — which really hit home for me. (My adult cousin is also on the spectrum and will not acknowledge those around him unless his name is called.)
And while APB does weave together philosophy, history, liberalism, white supremacy, LGTB, motherhood and domestic violence with artistic conscious protest, it does not give one concrete answer to the question of systemic brutality or why it exists. Instead APB provides a lens into the hearts, minds, pens and brushes of African American artists affected by tragedies that are endemic to our communities. APB also refutes the argument “why Black people riot” with accounts from notable figures, such as P. Djeli Clark.
My hat goes off to editors Bill Campbell, John Jennings, Jason Rodriguez and the entire Rosarium publishing crew for taking the time and effort to put this together. I also thank the artists for giving us an outlet for our often hidden pain and misplaced anger on this situation. I thank them for providing light in the darkness during a time that will be looked back upon as one of the most painful, triumphant times of the African American experience.
“Violence is committed by one and allowed by many.” – T. Fox Dunham
100% of the proceeds of APB go to The Innocence Project, a non-profit organization committed to criminal justice reform and is responsible for freeing hundreds of falsely accused incarcerated prisoners through DNA testing.
Donate to the Innocence Project Here