In the last couple of weeks, protests have erupted throughout the world in response to footage of George Floyd's horrific death on Memorial Day beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, on the heels of similar atrocities perpetrated against Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Tony McDade in Tallahassee.
Husband and wife Steve Saiz and Lillian Banderas, graphic designers and founders of the Miami cultural space Dale Zine, knew they had to do something — not just with themselves but with the platform they'd been building for a decade.
"There are so many great local and national grassroots organizations we can donate money to. I'd rather just make those donations personally. So what can make a bigger dent?" Banderas explains. "We wanted to provide a service for everyone. There are all types of people who have a voice, but maybe they don't have the resources or don't know how to get their message across."
So the couple quickly posted their services for free on Instagram. Included are design for anti-racist posters, pamphlets, and printed materials; free video editing and motion graphics for anti-racist content; and free stickers for protesters and volunteers. Dale had already worked on a bilingual leaflet with Bobuq Sayed and Roy Neil Hunter that aims to open a conversation with the more conservative factions of some Miami neighborhoods. They thought the response would be similarly intimate and small-scale.
"We didn't make a call for other Miami creatives to help us. We thought, me and Lillian, we'll do this," says Saiz. Banderas adds, "We didn't think that we would get in touch with everyone we know and create a network. That was the last thing on our minds."
"Reach out to us," Banderas reiterates. "We want more; we're not overwhelmed. We want to help, so don't be afraid to ask us for help. We're so ready to do it."
That same spirit of urgency has encouraged artists and creatives all over South Florida to retool their creative endeavors in the service of ending generations of violence against black people at the hands of police. Of course, organizations across the U.S. have been doing this work for years. More locally, (F)empower, an artist collective focused on fighting systems of oppression, has been in place since 2017 and helped to initiate a Black Mamas bailout action on Mother's Day last year.
The (F)empower Community Bail Fund exists to end the horrible system of money bail and pre-trial detention which punishes people because [they] cannot afford to pay for their freedom," the organization states in an email. "This year, as soon as corona broke out, we knew it was only a matter of time before corona spread inside jail cages. [We] reactivated the bond fund to bring people home so they wouldn't have to die in a cage."
Grassroots organizations with existing infrastructure have allowed businesses like Andrew, the local skateboarding brand and downtown storefront, an outlet for its own desire to contribute. The sales of a T-shirt emblazoned with "Fuck Racism" at Andrew will benefit the Dream Defenders.
Last weekend, Jessica Garcia, AKA Miss Jaws, began to offer prints of her work to provide more resources to organizations bailing out protestors. For the rest of the month, Miss Jaws will contribute proceeds from the sales to the (F)empower fund and others like it across the nation. The illustrator, animator, zinemaker, and fine artist had already contributed some of her own money to different groups but recognized the opportunity to do more.
"It just felt instinctual," Garcia explains. "What happened to George Floyd, may he rest in power, it's not unique. It's an old story. This is a racially unjust institution, the result of a system that was meant to work this way. I couldn't stand idly by. There was an obscene sense of restlessness.
"You make us stay inside for months and then kill us as soon as we walk outside?" she adds. "No. I was fed up. I was pissed off."
Garcia, a West Palm Beach native, says her response reflects both the societal and personal aspects of the current uprising. Referencing the latter, she recalls having to explain to her high school classmates why the death of Trayvon Martin was inextricably tied to the disproportionate policing of black and brown people, and how she "had the displeasure" of meeting three sons of an executive from the Boca Raton-based GEO Group who slapped each other with sticks they called "n-word beating sticks" — an experience she couldn't separate from the real estate firm's investment in prisons and detention centers.
"It's entrenched here," she says. "A cop has never made me feel safe. My stomach drops when I see one. I'm Latina, so [my parents] told me, 'Be careful. You gotta act right around them. If you act funny, you never know what's going to happen.'"
Garcia echoes a sentiment expressed by many others: that the issue is systemic and must be countered by organizing to defeat it.
"Cops aren't necessary," she says. "They are escalation and violence. They're a tool to protect capital and capitalism."