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100 Middle Fingers: Photo Project for #TrayvonMartin

 The first photo I took in response to the news report I heard on the tragic death of young Trayvon Martin. The idea was to approach people on the streets and ask them to flip the bird symbolizing “Fuck Racism.” – Marco L.

Back in March of 2012, I hop in my work van, turn on the radio, skip through a couple different FM stations until finally I hear the news. Most of the time I’ll take in the news then go about my day. On this particular day though, I was a bit uneasy. To be blunt, I was fucking pissed. Here we had a completely unnecessary tragedy just way too sad for words. I listened to the 911 recording and immediately….speechless.

But as overzealous as I considered Mr. Zimmerman to be, what got to me most was the fear that drove not just him but all close-minded douche bags to the point of violence. I wondered how in the fuck is stupid shit like this happening in 2012? You wanna be racist? Fine. But don’t go around shooting hoodied teenagers in the name of self defense. Just be racist and keep it moving. And while you’re at it, here…take this middle finger with you. And with that, an idea was born.

A campaign. One that would contribute in driving traffic to the online petition to bring charges against the killer, who at the time wasn’t even given a slap on the wrist. And so I reached out to my west coast compadre BP and we hit the streets approaching people of all walks. We talked with the people about Trayvon Martin, pointed them to the online petition and then asked them to pose for a photo. But not smiling. Nope. Fuck a smile. And fuck racism. It was time to throw them birds up. And that’s just what they did.

This is their story. 100 middle fingers of solidarity.

May your name forever be remembered, Trayvon.

Marco L. We Are Juxt // Instagram

Editors Note:  Also see Artists for Trayvon originally published in April of 2012 

Jamaican gentleman who was more than furious over the tragic death of young Trayvon Martin.

The story: This dude saw me taking some shots and overheard my explanation of the FR project. I saw him run into Walgreens and was ready for his turn.

“Fuck that and fuck the guy who killed him. This is for that kids family. May God watch over them”

‘So the cops just let the guy go? What’s the name of the website again? I’ll sign that petition right now ‘ Before I even got my phone out for the shot, she whips out a white iPhone from her jean pocket, ‘change.org right?’ I look through my camera roll while I wait for her to finish. ‘There. Done. That’s bullshit. You can get punished for throwing flour on celebrities. But you shoot a kid and nothing?’

“Yeah I been following the story. It’s all over Facebook. Now they’re trying to make Trayvon look like he was a menace. Posting pics that supposedly ain’t even him. Saying he smoked weed and wrote graffiti on school grounds. I see all the back & forth comments on Facebook. People are arguing. It’s a mess. I don’t know, man. That dude Zimmerman might actually get away with it.”

“I didn’t know about this. I tell you, that as an immigrant to this country I know how hard it is. I’ve been discriminated against a lot. That boy did not deserve to die.”

“Yes I heard a while back when it happened. I know Trayvon’s cousin who lives up here and my family and I joined in on the rally to support their family. Justice for Trayvon. And tell the world.”

“Let me tell you something, man. Self defense is not gonna work in that man’s favor. In this life or the next, he’s gonna have to answer for what he did. He fucked up. He fucked up big time and he knows it. If he wanted to shoot somebody he should’ve joined the Marines. The Army. One of them. But he a coward. In his heart he know he a coward. A coward and a liar. And he gonna have to answer for his wrong. You hear me?”

 ”Yup. No problem. I totally agree. No injustice should happen and the reason it does is because ignorant people don’t want to learn.”

 ”My Tia (Aunt) was just showing me yesterday. She was upset and started talking about us wearing hoodies. Everybody wears hoodies. That’s supposed to make you a thug?”

 ”I see the posts online. I signed a petition. I think it’s the same one you’re talking about. Oh. It’s the only one? Then yeah, I signed it already.”

 ”Yes! I even got on the perfect gloves for this.”

 ”Of course I’ll pose for this. I hope one day we’ll never see bad news related to race again. Will it happen? I don’t know. You gotta hope though. We all hope for things. I think that’s a pretty good thing to hope for.”

 ”I don’t think that petition is gonna work. Not to sound like a pessimist but that guy’s father is a retired judge. And I think his mother worked for the courts too. You know they know people. Why else would the cops let him go like nothing? He probably called his father when he was at the station and that was that. Anybody else would’ve got some kind of charge. Something. I don’t know man but I hope the petition works.”

 ”I think it’s pathetic, really. Some people are still so way behind the times. They need buy themselves a computer and catch up. It’s okay to be around people who don’t look like you. You don’t have to go around shooting them. Fuck yes, I’ll pose. But I wanna turn my head to side like I ain’t even paying mind to all the ignorant fucks? Is that cool with you?”

 “And this is for fuck racism, right? Okay, I’m going to trust you. I hope I don’t see my face on some religious gay-bashing site. Cause Karma’s a bitch and you’ll get yours. But I’m getting a good vibe from you and I like the message.”

 ”Yes, of course. You look tired, man. You’ve been walking around all day approaching people for this? That’s love. No pulling punches on racism….I love it.”

 ”Such an awesome project. We had a class discussion about this last week. And everybody’s been posting their hoodie pic online. But this is definitely the first time anyone’s asked me to say fuck racism. I’ll do it. You too, right? Yeah, we’re in.”

 ”That’s that bullshit. I don’t even wanna get upset all over again. I hope when I have kids, they never have to hear about stuff like this going on still.”

 ”This shit is worldwide man. I was watching TFC and they even talking about it in the Philippines. They showed that fucker a few hours after he killed Trayvon and he had no scratches, no blood on his face, no signs of struggle. How is it you’re gonna tell someone that you did it in self-defense and not have a scratch on you? Your story is flawed homie, flawed!”

 ”If it does go to court and he’s found guilty, they’re gonna have to deport him. They’d be throwing him to the wolves if he ends up in prison here. People are upset and rightfully so. It’s inhuman. The whole situation.”

 “I already signed the petition a couple days ago. She’s the one who sent me the story and link.”

 ”This is the first time I’ve heard about it. It’s really tragic and I hope there is justice for the family. Give me the name of that website again. I wanna store it on my phone.”

 ”Yea bro, that’s easy! Middle finger in the air. RIP Trayvon. We will remember!”

 ”I fucking get shivers thinking about this shit. I had a friend who was a victim of a hate crime. What’s hate crimes for? What’s it about? Because people are different? Is it because we scare ‘you’? ‘You’ trying to fucking express ‘yourself’? Shivers I tell you. It’s like when you get so mad that your body just reacts. Props to you and your boy, get this shit out there!”

 ”My mom told me about this story. MY MOM! This is the shit my grandmother fought with people in the 60′s and 70′s against. We’ve got Facebook and Twitter and IPhones and IPads, and we’re still dealing with racial profiling and hate crimes and people still choosing sides?”

 ”Yea man, that shit is fucked up. I’ll support.”

 ”This is a bad time for responsible gun owners. I support gun ownership but this shit is just fucked up. Fuck racism.”

 “This is a travesty. An American tragedy. I mean really, hate crimes and racism. Really?!? This country we live in will never be free based on why it was truly founded if we are out killing kids of color on behalf of some stupid unfounded stereotypes. The kid had a skittles and an iced tea. That Zimmerman guy will get his. If not on this earth, when he goes to hell!”

 ”Fuck you racists. Go back to your cave and circle jerk with your racist asses. Fuckers.”

 “This is an awesome idea. If people don’t listen then giving the middle finger will definitely catch someone’s attention. Hopefully piss someone off to have dialogue about this tragedy.”

 ”Nah I didn’t hear about this. I hate watching and listening to the news. Shit is so depressing. The unfortunate thing about this fucked up story is that shit happens every single time. Trayvon probably wore shit like me. That shit could’ve happened to me. Could’ve happened to any one of my homies. Shit is real life. So tell folks, just because he wore a hoodie don’t mean he about to jack something.”

 ”I support you. I support Trayvon’s family. I support all the victims of hate crime. It’s not just about race. It’s about stereotypes. It’s about class. It’s about gender. It’s about sexual identity. It’s about living free of violence. If fuckers are trying to take away your right to live based on any and all of the above, FUCK THEM!”

 ”It ain’t right what happened. This is a good way to get folks educated on what happened.”

 “I can’t believe this world we live. Trayvon is dead, so now they try to demonize him by saying he smoked weed!?! By saying he got suspended and skipped school!?! These fuckers trying to make Zimmerman the victim?! Yo Zimmerman and your friends, FUCK YOU!”

 “I really hope something comes out of this. I know it’s not gonna be nothing like the 60′s with Martin Luther King marching cause nowadays people don’t care. It’s like, ‘Oh well. Fuck it. Life goes on.’ But damn, don’t just let that Zimmerman dude get away with it. Honestly, he probably is gonna get away with it. I don’t know. It was definitely because of racism though. We live in a racist country. That’s never gonna change. It’s just the way it is.”

 

 Fuck racism. This young couple had no problem showing their disdain for it.

 

 Passionate young lady showing the media for the world to see. Trayvon Martin’s death shall not be in vain. Union Square rally. NYC.

 ”Yeah. It’s really messed up. I don’t know why that guy didn’t just stop following him after the police told him to stop.”

 Union Square rally in honor of Trayvon Martin. NYC

 Store owner. “Okay. Hell yes I’ll pose. I even got a hoodie. Want me to just throw up the one or both middle fingers?”

 “I already posted a pic on my Facebook with a hoodie on and I’m holding a pack of Skittles. But this? This is crazy. Fuck racism, right? Fuck it, I’m down.”

 “Wow! That’s definitely a bold statement alright. But I like it. You want us to both to pose right here?”

 “Ha! You’re crazy. But fuck it.”

 ”Definitely. I like what you’re doing. Anything to help bring that sorry bastard to justice.”

 Skaters. “So you gonna post this online, right? You should post it everywhere. Facebook, Twitter and everything. You got Tumblr?”

 ”In England, we throw up both fingers. But I’ll do it the American way.”

 ”I don’t like nobody taking my picture. Nobody. But for this….I got you. C’mon y’all. Get in the pic with me. I’ma let this man take my pic for this.”

 ”I love it! It’s different but I love it. Great project.”

 “Racism is never going away but I respect what you’re doing. Okay, I’ll do it.”

 “And the name of the website is change.org? Thanks. I’ll definitely check that petition tonight. Thank you for letting me know”

 ”Yeah, I can do that. For that I will.” in response to the project of posing with the middle finger up as a symbol of solidarity against racism and hate.

 “Yeah! Hell yeah I’ll pose for that! But I wanna see the pic first in case my hair looks a mess.” in response to the project of posing with a middle finger up as a symbol of solidarity against racism and hate.

Excuse me sir have you heard of the Trayvon Martin ? I’ve been following it since the news broke. Tragic that we still live like this ! How’s that ? We got people still believing in the half-truths and mythological stereotypes! We have people crossing to the other side of the street because of a black man or a man of color dressed up in something other than what white America wants, like a mythological monster. Turns out the guy who killed that poor kid probably was crazy thinking he was a vampire killer. Vampire killers still need to go to jail, I’d say a special jail with some ‘vampires’ in ‘em . I was walking around Westlake Park for the 24 Hour Project when I saw the article facing out. Figure I needed to drum up some convo.

 ”Of course I’ll use my big ass Italian finger to flip off some racists”

 ”I don’t care if I’m at work, I’m gonna do this for Trayvon but it’ll have to be after I ring this customer out”

 “Suspicious looking my ass. That young boy wasn’t bothering anybody. And how the fuck did that Neighborhood Watch guy get a gun anyway? Don’t he got a record for domestic violence? And they let him go like nothing. They would’ve locked my black ass up for life had it been me. Man, where your camera at? A middle finger against racism and hate? I got you.”

 “I just heard the story yesterday. Dude was just minding his own business talking to his girlfriend on the phone, right? And the guy who killed him….he’s not even in jail, right? That’s fucking crazy.”

 ”Oh hell yes! I’ve been waiting for someone to do something like this! I already did the hoodie pic but I love this! I love it!!! Thank you for doing this!”

 ”FUCK that Zimmerman dude”

 “I’m running late for class but you definitely got my attention. Bold project you guys got going on. I hope it gets those petition signatures you’re hoping for.”

 ”It doesn’t matter about anything else than the end result, he got killed because of a stereotype.”

 “Man we just did a project in school about this. This shit piss me the fuck off for real. You want us all to put both fingers or just one?”

 “That is so messed up. I’ve never used the middle finger for nothing but if this is for that kid, then big finger is up”

 ”You didn’t even have to tell me to put my finger up. I’ve been wanting to tell that guy what a wrong thing he did and this is what I wanted to show him all along”

 “Have I heard about Trayvon? I been wearing a hoodie everyday since I heard the news. You don’t gotta ask twice.”

 ”I’ll support in any way I can and if it’s to give you the middle finger, then it’s to give you the middle finger. This is for Trayvon”

 “You ain’t gonna send this shit to the Feds, are you? I seen that hoodie shit all over Facebook but this shit sounds wild. Yo, Flaco, you getting in the pic? Nah? You know what? Fuck it. Just us two then. This better be for fuck racism. Trayvon, my dude, this is for you.”

 “This is dope but if you use it for something else, I’ll sue you”

 ”This is for Trayvon and his family! I support everything about this and support everything that is on change.org”

 “I used to live in Florida and you know what? I actually think that Stand Your Ground is a good thing. But as soon as Zimmerman admitted to the 911 dispatcher that he was following Trayvon, claiming self defense should’ve been thrown out the window right there. If I follow you out in the streets, I’m provoking any possible confrontation. So how could I claim self defense? Nah man, Zimmerman lost the right to claim self defense when he chose to continue pursuing Trayvon after he was told to stop.”

 “Man, you got a tough project. I know it’s against racism but that don’t bother you? I don’t think I could have people pointing the finger at me all day. You got my respect just for that. Of course I’ll do it. Let me throw my hoodie up first for Trayvon.”

———————————————–

“Trayvon, you will not be forgotten. We will honor you–and the millions your memory represents–that builds a movement that makes America what it must become. Rest in Peace.”  - Michelle Alexander, Author for Best Selling Book “The New Jim Crow”

6 Comments

  1. This is an interesting concept. By the subject flipping the bird symbolizing “fuck racism” at the viewer, is it meant to impart the fact that we all are guilty of racism at one level or another?

    • You’re spot on man. At first I thought it was just a simple statement we ask the subjects to do. I’d say after the 25th person flippin me off, I started to do a lot more introspection.

      I was telling Marco that it was weird revisiting these images from last year. It was traumatic actually. It got to the point when looking at the images, it was harder for me to look into the subjects eyes.

      Isn’t that the beauty of photography and image making though?!? its that connection and introspection and the whole gamut of things.

      I can’t speak for Marco and I just joined him at his request, but I’m sure that it solidified my own belief systems doing this project.

  2. Powerful, bro

  3. So powerful. Been feeling so much anger over this travesty, I’m identifying all too well with the raw emotions here.

    Fuck Racism. Hell yes. Big thanks, BP and Marco.

  4. This is a good thing you’re doing, guys. This never should have happened. {Have you thought about maybe doing one for general discrimination?}

  5. ….Because NOTHING defeats hate like MORE hate. You all are using a hateful expression to signify your dislike of hateful expression. Do you see the problem here? It would be like if I told someone to “stop fuckin’ cussing!” This is fucking ridiculous, because not only does it NOT get the message across, it makes idiots in hoodies even MORE annoying!