Artist Talk: Wanted by Dread Scott
Sunday, August 10 2014
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
The police in the US have criminalized a generation of Black and Latino youth. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 2.4 million people imprisoned. Most of those are Black and Latino with 1 in 9 Black men aged 20-34 in prison. And in NY, by March 2013, the NYPD has stopped and frisked over 5 million people, most of whom are Black or Latino.
In response, artist Dread Scott has created Wanted as a project that will exist both inside of No Longer Empty site as well as on the streets of Harlem.
Wanted is a community-based art project that addresses the criminalization of youth in America. It is presented in the art exhibition “If You Build It” as well as on the streets of Harlem, New York. It resembles a series of police wanted posters which each features a “police sketch” of a young adult, a description of them and a statement of what they are wanted for. For example “On Saturday May 17, 2014, at approximately 12:30 AM, a male black, 16-24 years of age was wearing a black waist length jacket and dark pants. The male was observed engaging in conversation with other males. The police allege that the suspect moved suspiciously when officers approached...“
The sketches of the youth were done on June 27th 2014 and were drawn by Kevin Blythe Sampson, a former police forensic sketch artist, based upon descriptions from adults who only briefly saw the young person they described. Like the drawings on actual police wanted posters, the sketches are simultaneously specific and generic. The texts on the posters are based on actual non-illegal activity that police frequently stop youths for.
No Longer Empty and a team of volunteers canvassed the neighborhood with posters. Hundreds of Wanted posters are displayed in bodegas, barber shops, pizza joints, etc. We have had conversations with the owners and employees in the establishments about why they want to place a Wanted poster in their store. Through these conversations, a dialogue has developed about how young people are targeted by police.
On Sunday August 10th, No Longer Empty convened a public forum that focused on how Stop and Frisk policy has been used and the aftermath of the criminal case of Floyd vs City of New York. Are we entering an era of the New Jim Crow? What can be done?
Carl Dix, co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Chauniqua D. Young, lawyer with Center for Constitutional Rights who helped litigate the recent federal civil rights class action lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices.
Jessica, one of the youth who participated in Wanted
Dread Scott, artist.
An aim of the project would be to have people step out and embrace the youth in this community. It is vital to “come out of the shadows” and be visible and declare that being young and living in Harlem (or Brownsville, Brooklyn or South Central LA) is not a crime. We, with our faces have nothing to hide. The last line on all of the posters reads: “The suspect is wanted by his family, friends and neighbors. “
Show your solidarity! Download your posters at http://www.wanted-project.com/ and hang it in your office, residence, or store. Take a photo and tag #wantedproject
See more photos here. Special thanks to Ella Levitt and Street Attack.
If You Build It