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Statement from Dr. Martin about Black Lives Matter

Jun 3, 2020

Osiyo (Hello),

We are all witnessing the peaceful protests, anger, violence, and looting in cities across America in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic murder by police officers in Minneapolis. We hear the voices of pain and watch the desperate actions of people in the streets resulting from systemic racism that has permeated this country for more than 500 years.

While we cannot condone violence, we categorically can no longer afford to tolerate racial injustices that have been the focal point of peaceful protests. John Lewis, United States Congressman and civil rights leader has said that racism “…sows the seeds of violence and destroys the hopes and dreams of people. If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.” As we experience two pandemics simultaneously, we understand that racism and hatred is a serious threat to the health of our minority communities.

Image courtesy of Jaida Grey Eagle and Catherine “Maggie” Thompson

Image courtesy of Jaida Grey Eagle (Oglala Lakota) and Catherine “Maggie” Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe)

I urge the Institute of American Arts (IAIA) community to join the struggle against racism, hatred, and violence. I ask that you provide positive and constructive contributions to the national conversation about race and poverty in this country. As President of a fine arts college, I encourage you to use your creative talents to fashion innovative statements about what is happening in our communities. We cannot quietly stand by while these injustices continue to damage the health and moral fiber of our communities.

For instance, IAIA alumna Jaida Grey Eagle  (Oglala Lakota) ‘19 and former IAIA Artist-in-Residence Catherine “Maggie” Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe) have been hard at work, day-in and day-out, screen printing and sewing masks to give to protestors in Minneapolis. It’s inspiring to see members of the IAIA family taking the time to support and protect their communities—IAIA is #ManyNationsOneFamily, and that includes our brothers and sisters of all races.

During these tense times, when the graphic images we are seeing on social media can be overwhelming or triggering, Grey Eagle stated that “it is important to take time out for self-care because if you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot take care of your community.”

Please remember that your safety and well-being continue to be of the utmost importance.

Please do not risk danger from a virus or from intruders who are attempting to silence the voices of the oppressed.

Stay safe and well!

Wado (Thank you)

Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee Nation)
IAIA President