Trinidad-born artist Miles Regis is proving the paintbrush is mightier than the gun.
Regis, who had one of this painting commissioned by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in 2015, is once again letting his brushes do the talking as he captures the revolutionary imagery of the ongoing protest across the United States.
“Artists tend to be the voices and record keepers of the time. I feel it is important to document what will become history. As an artist I try to create every day. The stories and messages I create are usually reflective of the world around me and almost mirrors the experiences of myself, my family and friends,” Regis told the Kitcharee during an online exchange on Thursday evening.
Regis grew up in Petit Valley and migrated to Los Angeles, USA in 1988. His art is an unusual perspective of city life through the lens of an island upbringing.
“It is a unique position that one is placed in coming from a society where your race is in the majority and then you are faced with adjusting to living as a minority.
“It is a difficult path to walk being a black man in America and an even more complicated one being a father to black teenagers and to a black son in particular. So protest and taking action to fight for equal rights and being a part of the Black Lives Matter movement is nothing new for me,” the 53-year-old explained.
Regis has looked on with keen interest as the police killing of an American black man, George Floyd, by the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer has sparked global protests. Video of the incident and subsequent protest across the US have inspired massive demonstrations in the United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and several other European states.
The officer in question, Derek Chauvin and the three other responding officers have since been fired by the police department of that city. Chauvin was also charged with secondary degree murder after a video of him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, while two of the other officers held him down and another stood watch, went viral in May. Charges of aiding and abetting murder have reportedly also been brought against the other three officers.
Regis said art can be both a unifying and curative element in times of unrest and confusion.
“Art and the arts in general can be such a healing force. It is very crucial for the black community in particular to find hope and a sense of resolve at a time like this. I have had so many people of all races message me about how much my work offers a sense of comfort at a time like this.
“One image in particular is my ‘America’ painting. I feel like that painting really speaks to many and captures the sentiment of people from all corners of the globe. I am really so proud of the response that painting has generated. I have had several people say ‘your work always moves me to tears’. It is an honour and a blessing to have people express that my work resonates with them in such a profound and powerful manner. Hopefully one painting brings joy to someone’s day if only for a moment,” he said earnestly.
Regis said his art has also reminded him of what is most important. The Covid-19 lockdown and closure of public spaces has forced populations around the world to focus on what’s most important: the family unit.
“I really feel like the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of how temporary everything around us truly is. Our daily lives have typically revolved around work, the gym, or entertainment places such as movies, restaurants and bars. These places we typically frequent have been taken away from us and we are reminded about what truly matters. We have switched gears and we are learning to live without them. 2020 is teaching us that home, family and love is all that truly matter,” he said.
To Trinis wanting to join
the BLM fight
Regis urged young people in Trinidad and Tobago moved by the growing global protest action to lend their voices to the fight against systematic racism the world over.
“It has been a very painful time for the black community, not only in the USA but all around the world. In the face of this kind of deep-rooted systemic racism we all need to fight for meaningful change,” he said.
A handful of protesters recently gathered outside the US embassy here in T&T in solidarity with the BLM movement. The gathering attracted the attention of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and his officers who had a confrontation with the protestors after one demonstrator snatched a police cap off the head of one of the officers.
Regis cautioned that any demonstration or show of support should remain peaceful.
“Please stay peaceful and let our voices be heard. We have to believe that there are better days ahead because globally we will continue to fight for it,” he said to the people of T&T.
As for those on these shores that openly reject the BLM movement and instead push an All Lives Matter narrative, Regis pleaded for “greater sensitivity to the plight of black people”.
“It really is not a time for other races to show insensitivity to the plight of Black people. We all have a responsibility to make our world more just. I have several white friends in the US who initially felt like they could not embrace the Black Lives Matter slogan a few years back. Now they are the ones on the frontlines marching with ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs.
“It is good to see that some finally understand how crucial it is that we make this a problem that we must all fight and are now deciding to take action,” he said.
He warned that those who oppose the BLM movement will find themselves standing on the wrong side of history.
“When all is said and done isn’t it important to stand on the right side of history? I have a white friend who ended a conversation with me recently with a profound statement with regard to stepping up and taking action. That sentiment was, ‘I’m sorry it took me so long’,” he concluded.
It’s sentiment he has now immortalised in his art.
Connect with Regis at: MilesRegis.com and find America The Series prints at qqq.fathom.gallery/miles-regis