Artist Adrian Franks re-creates Charleston tragedy and powerful emotional expression

"Faith Under Fire #1” This piece is meant to show how violence historical has many different shapes, especially violence against People of color. The cross was used a tool for executing various types of people. It also became a symbol of one’s spiritual conventions. But also, it was used as a symbol of terrorism in the south. This piece ties that history of the cross to the symbolism of a gun & bullet. Some parts of society use the gun either to terrorize people, or protect people. In the case of Charleston, the gun in the hand of a terrorist was met with people who bear the cross which was a symbol of their faith.

Known for his protest art, award-winning artist Adrian Franks shares his inspiration with rolling out for his new series, “Faith Under Fire.” In the series, Franks pays tribute to the nine innocent victims of the terrorist attack carried out by Dylann Roof at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. and explores the history of violent attacks against Black churches in America.

What has happened to the freedom of Black people in the USA?

Our freedom dwindle more & more as well start letting our dollar leave the neighborhood. Black people in the USA today have freedoms that we didn’t always have 30, 40, 50 + years ago. Things like being able to live where you want to live, eat at any type of restaurants, attend certain schools, voting, or just being able to spend our money wherever we choose is a freedom that is very American. But with that newfound freedom comes a compromise, which usually make our schools, places of commerce & many of our black own businesses weak & unsupported.

Why are attacks on Black churches so historical?

Places of worship, especially the black church, have historically been the place where African Americans could have a since of freedom & refuge. By nature, black people are spiritual people; so a place likes a church, masjid, or temple historically have been outlets for real change in the community. We always organize, mobilize, & strategize various initiatives that would have a profound effect on the community. If you are the oppressor, then the most obvious place to attack your enemy is where they’re most vulnerable. And that would be a place of worship since we’re most likely to be unarmed & very welcoming.

What is lost from the conversation that you are illustrating with your art?

The loss is the sense of refuge. If you are not safe in the place where you worship, then you are not safe anywhere. So you might as well stand your ground & fight for your freedom. If you are not willing to lie down & die for your beliefs, then how can you claim to be truly free? The price of freedom is not free. It sometimes requires the ultimate sacrifice.

Who benefits from this type of murder?

No one benefits from murder.

What does your art allow you to tell the world about these murders?

With anything I create as an artist, my goal is to get people to stop & think about the subject at that moment. Right now the ask in my work that I create is that we need to start protecting our community from outside forces that don’t always have our best interest. Especially when it comes to our women & youth.

In the gallery below Franks explains the meaning behind each piece.

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