The inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Preamble, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
By Alice Kim
Last week, the city of Chicago made history when the City Council unanimously voted to pass a reparations package for Chicago Police torture survivors, specifically a group of African American men who were tortured by former Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command. The culmination of decades of struggle against Burge torture and a more recent #RahmRepNow campaign led by Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Amnesty International, Project NIA, and We Charge Genocide, this marks the first time in the United States that a municipality will provide reparations to African Americans in response to police violence.
The package was based on the Reparations Ordinance introduced to the City Council in October 2013 by Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins. One year before this, the ordinance had made its first public appearance on the walls of an exhibit called “Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture.” Curated by CTJM, a collective of artists, educators, activists and attorneys, this exhibit illustrated the power of art as a call to action.
“Artists are here to disturb the peace,” James Baldwin said. And that was the intent of our collective. Preceding the exhibit, we put out a call for proposals asking justice seekers to unleash their radical imaginations and create speculative monuments that memorialized the brutal history of Burge torture and the struggle against it. Our call for proposals was not a juried contest, instead we promised to showcase all proposals received in an art exhibit or a dedicated website. Over 70 artists from around the world responded with submissions, and one year after we put out our call for proposals, we produced the “Opening the Black Box” exhibit at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Gallery.
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