Painting by Michael Ray Charles. Image courtesy Lana Rigsby.

I AM AN ALLY IN PROGRESS

About the Cover

The cover painting of this zine is by Michael Ray Charles, an internationally renowned artist whose work unpacks the legacy of historic African American stereotypes from the Antebellum South in order to expose the underlying racism prevalent in today’s society. The painting was commissioned by Lana Rigsby, founding partner and creative director of Rigsby Hull, and appeared as part of the “Church Fan Project” honoring the late George Floyd during a candlelight vigil at Jack Yates High School in Houston on June 8, 2020.

Image Courtesy Keith Carter.

In reference to the project, Rigsby Hull writes, “George Floyd summoned all mothers when he cried ‘mama’ as he lay dying in the street, and we found it impossible not to respond. As 67,000 people gathered in Houston to lay George’s body to rest, we offered a heartfelt gesture of comfort, distributing a sea of handheld paper church fans that helped mourners ward off the sweltering summer heat. The fans feature artist Michael Ray Charles’ painting of Floyd with eyes closed, having just uttered his last words, ‘I can’t breathe, Mama…’, a portrait of centuries-old anguish and pain. The image is agonizing, but the flipside a powerful promise: I VOTE.”

In the collaboration, Charles and Rigsby draw on the cultural power of church fans, iconic artifacts of the Black South, aiming to provide a measure of comfort, however small, to the individuals collectively mourning those lost to systemic racism and anti-Blackness.

Left: Painting by Michael Ray Charles. Image courtesy Lana Rigsby. Right: Photography © Aairik Charles : Portrait of Lana Rigsby & Michael Ray Charles © Drew Donovan