Across the US, thousands of protesters have filled city streets chanting “Black Lives Matter” following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last week. Now, the Los Angeles-based activist and performance artist Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement and founder of the criminal justice reform group Dignity and Power, has release a video of her 2020 performance Prayer to the Iyami, in which she builds a structure on an eight-foot wide nest with her older brother Monte’s clothing.
Monte, who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders, was beaten by police officers during an arrest and brutalised during his incarceration, prompting Cullors to start the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013. The video includes a score by the writer James Baldwin speaking about systemic racial injustice as Cullors reads a proposal for the Yes on R Ballot measure—a jail reform act she helped develop in Los Angeles, which passed in March 2020.
Cullors is seen leading a procession and building and carrying a 20-pound tapestry in the shape of wings, the weight of the materials symbolising the two decades she spent attempting to keep her brother free from incarceration and police brutality. The piece was first performed in conjunction with the Iranian-American artist Shirin Neshat’s exhibition I will Greet the Sun Again at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, which closed earlier this year and explored Neshat’s philosophical and political influences.