Not even the gale force winds of a hurricane could bring down the slave quarters in Jammie Holmes’ hometown. Holmes, a Dallas-based painter with an impressive following, is from Thibadaux, Louisiana. Through portraits of his family and friends, he captures the desperation and poverty prevalent in his hometown. When he talked with the Observer in February, he shared the motivation behind his work.
“These are all stories,” he says. “They’re for blacks. They’re for whites. They’re for Mexicans. They’re for whoever is going to listen. When they look at it, I want them to say, ‘I get it. I really fucking get it.’”
His latest work, an aerial presentation over five cities, continues his mission to cast a light on racism and black persecution. On May 30, five days after Minneapolis man George Floyd was killed by police, Holmes commissioned five airplanes to fly over Detroit, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Each plane carried a message with part of Floyd’s final words. In Dallas, protesters watched as the words “My Neck Hurts” flew above their demonstration. For Holmes, the demonstration was another way to display his frustration with police misconduct.
“Like countless silenced and fearful young black men, I have been the victim of police misconduct on a number of occasions in my life,” Holmes wrote in an artist statement for the presentation. “At some point, they will realize they can’t kill us all.”
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Holmes chose planes because they’re typically reserved to “promote consumption.”
“[The use of sky media] is rarely used for political or social purposes — to exercise free speech — because it is an outlet unavailable to the poor and marginalized,” he writes in his statement. Ultimately, he hopes his work can inspire action.
“I hope that people across the United States will use the outlets available to them to continue to demand change,” he writes. “Please sign petitions to support the families of the latest victims in their pursuit of justice, and donate what you can.”