Portrait set of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I can't deny it. When [Malcolm X] starts talking about all that's been done to us, I get a twinge of hate, of identification with him." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The white man pays Reverend Martin Luther King, subsidizes Reverend Martin Luther King, so that Reverend Martin Luther King can continue to teach the Negroes to be defenseless." - Malcolm X
I made these portraits of these two revered political activists to portray the tension that existed between their two drastically different beliefs around the path to freedom for black Americans. Discovering this tension was eye-opening to me for several reasons. I was familiar with Dr. King's approach, but quite frankly, as far as I knew, Malcolm X was yet another "great leader" of the civil rights movement. Who Malcolm X was and what he stood for didn't register to me until within the last year. I was surprised that there is still a vibrant presence of black America out there that identify as part of Nation of Islam following his ideology.
As an outsider to the black struggle against the white oppressor in America (as a fresh Korean-Paraguayan-American immigrant during middle and high school in Chicago's public schools, "America" as a concept didn't even register to me and American history was the least interesting of all kind), it took me a long time, reaching my own political empowerment, to break through past a single story understanding of black Americans. In fact, it makes total sense that there should have emerged various leaders in thought for a people who are so large in volume and have been seeking freedom for so long.
This piece, among other works by me, will be displayed at a local coffee shop (Daily Press Coffee) in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn throughout the month of March. I hope that highlighting this tension will encourage others to explore variations in thought leadership that emerged at a critical time in our nation, to consider the importance of segregation/integration as an approach towards freedom and its applicability today, and to celebrate the greatness (charisma, deep understanding, humanity, devotion) in these two powerful leaders.