In a letter addressed to police and posted to the Orlando Sentinel on June 14, Antioch Alumni John Sims ’90 expresses his sentiment regarding the current social-political climate in the US and writes,
I have been meaning to write to you since the ’90s after the Rodney King incident, and then later with the unfathomable massacre of Amadou Diallo. Then came Abner Louima, Sean Bell, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor and many others who also gave reason to write.
But it is the merciless death of George Floyd that brings me to this page, where I am compelled to address the police culture and crisis that threatens the core of this country. While there are many law- and policy-abiding police officers, this letter is directed to the entire police community.
With George Floyd’s neck lodged between the knee of a police officer and the surface of a dirty street, as he pleaded for air, as he called out for his dead mother, and as he prophesied, “They’re going to kill me,” the nation watched in horror. Many in disbelief. Many more in disgust.
The sight of a white cop kneeling Kaepernick-style on the neck of a black man goes beyond evil irony. It triggers centuries of pain, trauma and a range of images from captured runaway slaves to the mangled face of Emmett Till.
These images are portals to an understanding that the arc of justice bends away from the intersecting spaces where black people traverse and white men patrol. These images of compressed racism and detached humanity rekindle a deep sense of shame of what America is at the core — a twisted marriage of dreams and nightmares, selfless activism and toxic capitalism, and freedom and bondage.
John Sims is a multimedia artist, writer, and social justice activist based in Sarasota who ‘s artworks combine his mathematics training to confront symbols that represent white supremacy and to promote cross-cultural community. One example of his work is a performance and installation exhibition from 2017, The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag, performed at Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum.
This installation consisted of a Confederate flag hanging from a noose at 13-foot gallows.
In a 2017 interview with Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sims stated that his art is “a forceful call to action leading to a movement to take down Confederate monuments across the South, and change school and street names honoring the Confederacy.” Today, we are experiencing this change – statues and monuments are finally being removed throughout the Western world due to widespread protests and a universal declaration that Black Lives Matter.