Haitian-American Artist Explains His Image Of MLK And President Trump

Originally posted Jan 18th

You may have seen an illustration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day showing the civil rights leader with a hand over President Trump’s mouth, trying to get the president to stop tweeting. The artist is Watson Mere, he was born in the U.S., but his parents are Haitian.

Mere (@ArtOfMere_) speaks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about his image, and the president’s recent alleged comments asking, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”

Interview Highlights

On his initial thoughts about President Trump’s alleged comments

“When I first heard the words reported, initially, it was very disheartening, especially since it was around the anniversary of the earthquake of 2010 that hit Haiti. And around that time of the year, that’s usually a time where Haitians around the world, millions, we grieve and we remember the lost ones that were killed because of the earthquake, an unimaginable number. Just seeing the images, and my relatives that were in Haiti, just hearing their accounts of how horrific it was and loved ones that they actually lost. Usually that’s a time where Haitians, we grieve. It happened eight years ago now, but it’s still something that hits us all really deeply around this time of the year. So that combined with the alleged remarks, it really — I tend to try not to allow anything that the news or he says affect me — but that really hit somewhere deep.”

On his response to the alleged comments

“First of all, Haiti is an extremely beautiful country with some of the most beautiful, most creative, most vibrant people in the world that you’ll ever meet. Haiti has contributed so much to America, U.S. history. Because of the Haitian Revolution, America was able to purchase the Louisiana Territory from the French. Cities like Chicago were actually founded by Haitians, so Haitian contribution to this country is plenty, and so I just couldn’t imagine that someone could say something about a country that has just contributed so much to the world.”

On what it was like to see his “My Brother’s Keeper” piece go viral again

“To be completely honest with you, it was surreal. I wasn’t really expecting that at all. I released it last year, mainly because I just wanted to do something in honor of Dr. King. And it just so happened that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a week before the inauguration, and the atmosphere of the entire country — my spirit just gave me a vision of the image that I ultimately created. But in terms of it actually going viral once again, that was just something that was — I didn’t imagine and it really caught me by surprise.”

“I didn’t want to do anything that was a caricature of either one of them. I wanted to just do something that would be completely honest and real.”

Watson Mere

On the message of that piece

“Because of what I know of the history and the legacy of Dr. King … his message of equality, peaceful equality. So I didn’t want to do anything that was too aggressive. I didn’t want to do anything that was a caricature of either one of them. I wanted to just do something that would be completely honest and real. And that’s why — the piece is called ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’ I just wanted to take on his spirit of just saying — giving out that message of equality that Dr. King, that he embedded in all of us. … The message is that I don’t find that he’s been in line with Dr. King’s message of equality.”

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