CHICAGO | Monday, January 19, 2015 - The #letusbreathe collective took to the streets—more specifically, to the brunch spots—of Wicker Park in Chicago to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King by speaking up for unarmed black and brown people killed by police. Led by Kristiana Colon and her brother Damon Williams, the event marked yet another moment in the contemporary struggle for de facto equality in America and beyond. At each stop in the protest, participants read and displayed the names of the dead.
Some of the brunch patrons scowled. Some looked the other way. Many engaged with the protestors, asking questions, or voicing their concern with the methods. The protest aimed to incite dialogue, to keep in the public consciousness the true meaning of the figure the day celebrated.
As photographer, my role was to capture the spirit of the moment. I was interested in the faces of the protestors, many of whom are good friends. I was interested in the way their presences shaped the spaces into which they entered. How their evocation of the dead sat upon the air, altering its symbolic potential.
The protestors were a mixed group, connected in the mutual belief that each human being on this planet deserves respect, that no lives are more valuable than any other lives. This is what Dr. King taught.
After four and a half minutes in each location, we exited with a quote from Dr. King, spoken in unison:
In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
And we exited singing an old protest song: "Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on?" A fitting question whose answers are as varied, perhaps, as we are, and are, therefore, well summed-up in the response we gave to ourselves: "We're on the freedom side!"