Posted on Leave a comment

Bear Witness

by Verde Arzu

August 20, 2023

Over sixty Black artists & creatives gather on July 29, 2023 in Sacramento, CA. In Unison, the group chants, “This is PROOf!” [Video taken by Verde Arzu]

"Black artists continue to work and live in spaces where they are still the only or one of few. We know we are here but sometimes we need to see the proof too!" -Faith J. McKinnie

This Is PROOf

On Saturday, July 29, 2023, more than sixty vibrant, Black artists and creatives from in and around the city of Sacramento descended upon its downtown area in unforgettable fashion to capture a historic moment in photographic form. Capturing PROOf provides Black artists an opportunity to continue the legacy of boldly proclaiming our existence, reclaiming our culture, and rejecting the generations-long efforts to deny and exclude Black artistry from mainstream access. 

Now, more than ever, it is essential for Black artists of all genres to be bold with their craft–to claim their rightful place, to create art that speaks to the lived experiences of Blackness and tell Black stories with audacity. PROOf’s collaboration was spearheaded by two of Sacramento’s phenomenal artists, Faith J. McKinnie, and Dev Anglin. Faith is Executive Director of Black Artists Foundry, an organization dedicated to addressing the “disparities that have long hindered” Black artists’ progress. Dev Anglin is owner of Nine Sixteen Luxuries “This is Sac,” a fashion and novelty company, which provides luxury wear for the people. Anglin is also a multi-faced artist, and the photographer behind the lens responsible for capturing this visual testament. 

PROOf for Future Generations

Future Black artists need to be able to see themselves–to see that it is possible to find success within any artistic discipline, to be inspired by those who came before them, and to have a road map to follow as their foundation. PROOf is a history lesson for future generations.

McKinnie states, “The goal for PROOf was to gather Black artists and creatives from around the greater Sacramento region, to capture an image that bears witness to the fact that we were here. I have studied the Harlem Renaissance images and archives of convening Black folks and found the pressing need to document our own contemporary moment. Fully understanding that one day this will be 100 years in the past and will motivate folks just as those early 20th century images did for me.” 

McKinnie’s message is poignant, powerful, and timely. In a juncture in America where elected officials work desperately to erase the truth of the Black experience from classrooms, and re-write history in the textbooks through legislation, Black artists must get to work to make sure the truth is told. Toni Morrison once said, “This is precisely the time when artists must go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. That is how civilizations heal.”  PROOf is the work, it is that voice, that bravery, and the healing we all need to be rejuvenated to create on. We are who future generations will look to. 

Better Together

The timing felt anointed, as the moment paid homage to Black artists from the past. Artists like Gerry Simpson, who has been creating art in Sacramento for over twenty-five years, whose shoulders we undoubtedly stand upon today; while celebrating and empowering present-day artists. A year in the making, Anglin recalls, “PROOf came from a common thread of wanting to bring the people together to historically preserve us.” 

PROOf says Sacramento Black artists of all disciplines show up for one another, we understand the power in unifying. When asked why showing PROOf in Sacramento is important, Anglin replied, “I believe PROOf is important for Sacramento specifically because of the amazing Black talent we have in abundance. Although it’s a vast number of us, we are not all connected. As we should know, when we come together, we’re able to be more effective at any objective. I know that PROOf can provide that bridge of connection, support, and resources. Resulting in strengthening the city & the Black community creatively and economically.” I believe we can all agree. After all, history has shown us, from the artists of The Harlem Renaissance, that we are powerful together. There are no margins with which we fit in when we are together.

A Sacred Vibe

The atmosphere and energy on the outdoor stage was electric from the moment I walked up. The kinetic buzz in the voices from the sixty plus people gathered and connecting with each other was rhythmic all on its own. I was pulled in and my unease vanished. As an independent Black queer writer, blogger, and podcaster, I was blessed and privileged to experience the gathering of PROOf first-hand. I felt the welcoming vibe calling me into the familiarity of Black love. It was a moment like none I have ever experienced since moving to Sacramento over a decade ago. I finally felt at home.

PROOf was a reminder to me and those there, that the spaces we create when we gather are sacred. Our unity pulled in passersby like scheduled audience members, as they watched on in awe of our greatness. Together, we could not be overlooked or ignored. Black artists, from all forms, were connecting with each other. In attendance were content creators, visual artists, models, stylists, curators, writers, photographers, among others, in a pond of Blackness. It was exactly the kind of nourishment our souls needed. A born introvert, I struggle to promote my brand. Moments like these are crucial for all artists, but especially for those who find themselves creating alone. 

Among the many dope, Black artists in attendance was content creator, visual artist, and stylist, Keia Kodama, who currently has a sneaker installation at Sacramento’s Arden Mall. A Black artist who created a mind-blowing pair of “Hair Force 1s,” that are a salute to Black womxn and our hair stories. Model, actress, dancer, thrifter, Mersadez Hogan. She introduced herself to me as a model making space in the world of fashion for plus-size womxn. Camille Janae, who is an entrepreneur and poet, making space for “melanated creatives,” through “Out the Way on J,” a spot where folks can come listen to spoken word and live jazz. The moment of PROOf created hallowed ground.


The occasion was unforgettable for sure and historic for certain. The lives of the Black artists who gathered there will forever be changed. We have been recorded in the books of history. We have proclaimed our existence, and boldly made it known that we are here. Anglin declares, “We can expect more love and fun. More history to be made by intertwining our crafts and resources. We can expect the world will not be able to wipe us from any records of humanity and culture, especially in Sacramento, CA.” It is exactly the kind of legacy that is vital.  

In an interview on ABCs, “The View,” Viola Davis was asked why representation matters. Her response, “Because you need to see a physical manifestation of your dreams…there is something about seeing someone who looks like you that makes it more tangible. You can see it, you can touch it, and it gives you the ability to look through your imagination, you know? You got to see a way out. Someone has to provide a portal.” PROOf’s 2023 gathering of Black artists in Sacramento is that portal. 

McKinnie hopes, “to see something organically grow from this. We all need each other,” she affirmed. Perhaps the next time we gather will be at a cookout. How historically dope would that be? 

Click the links to learn more and support!


Posted on

Carlisha Hood

by Verde Arzu

“And since we all came from a woman/got our name from a woman and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women/why we rape our women, do we hate our women?” -2 Pac

Keep Ya Head Up

Take from Our Womxn

On a warm summer’s evening, Carlisha Hood, a thirty-five year old Black mother walked into a restaurant on the Southside of Chicago. Separately, thirty-two year old Jeremy Brown did the same. While in line, the two engaged in a verbal disagreement. Meanwhile, Carlisha’s fourteen-year-old son waited in the care for his mom to return with food. Instead, Mr. Brown was inside brutally and viciously attacking Ms. Hood.

In the video released by several news outlets, Jeremy Brown can be seen standing next to Ms. Hood at the ordering window of the restaurant, balling up his first, yelling at Ms. Hood, demanding she stop talking. Also seen in the video are other people standing around watching the situation unfold. One additional person is responsible for recording the incident. Ms. Hood is seen responding to Mr. Brown. He then yells out, “say one more word and I’m going to knock you out.” Ms. Hood continues to talk. Mr. Brown then begins to punch Ms. Hood in the head several times. A middle-aged Black man can be seen in the video turning around and fleeing the restaurant once Ms. Hood is physically attacked by Mr. Brown.

Ms. Hood’s teenage son walks into the restaurant and witnesses his mother being viciously beaten by Mr. Brown like a lion who has found his prey in the wild. Frantic, the fourteen-year-old boy pulls his mother’s gun from his sweatshirt pocket, pulls the trigger, and saves his mother’s life.

I Wonder Why

Ms. Brown and her son were both immediately arrested and charged with first degree murder. Immediately. It did not take days, weeks, or months for this arrest to take place. The response to arrest and charge this brutally beaten womxn and her heroic son by Chicago police officers was immediate.

However, Ajike Owens was shot and killed through the door by her neighbor. It took four days before the white womxn who murdered her was arrested.

Ralph Yarl was shot in the head by a white man because he accidentally knocked on the wrong door. It took a national outcry before the 84-year-old white man was arrested.

We certainly can’t forget about Ahmaud Aubrey who was taking a jog in his neighborhood and was hunted down and murdered in cold blood. The three murderers weren’t arrested for two months! Even still, it took a national outcry, worldwide outrage, and protests to bring those murderers to justice.

There are countless others.

Meanwhile, Carlisha Hood, after being savagely attacked, being saved only by her teenage son, who had no other choice but to defend her, was arrested and charged within hours.

This. Is. America.

Do We Hate Our Womxn?

I first learned about this incident from Tamika D. Mallory, a social justice activist, who spoke out about this senseless violence against Ms. Hood on her Instagram page. Mallory expressed frustration and heartbreak over what transpired on the evening of June 18th in Chicago. She questioned the actions of those who stood around and watched Mr. Brown first verbally threatened, then viciously beat Hood–punching her in the face several times with his closed fist. No one stepped in to say a word! No one stepped in to try to escort Mr. Brown out of the restaurant to calm him down. No one said, “hey, brother, why don’t you step outside for a second?” No one said, “hey, sister, come on and go with me. I’ll bring your food to you.” Everyone just stood around and watched. Someone stood there and recorded it. Another Black man turned around and ran out.

I understand that we, as a society, live in a time where we have to be very careful of when and how we step into situations that have nothing to do with us, right? I ask, however, when did we become the Black community whose Black men stand and watch another Black man beat a Black womxn down? Do we no longer have unwritten agreements and standards on how we protect each other? Are our communities so fractured and shattered that we have no moral compass or standards? Further, I ask, what is happening to the code in the Black community? Codes like, “respect your elders. Get up and let your elders sit down when you’re on public transportation, hold the door for someone behind you, especially if their hands are full. Be kind.” Is being kind not a thing anymore? Do unwritten codes not exist in Black communities anymore? Are we in the year of two thousand and twenty-three where we stand aside silently and watch a Black womxn get brutally beaten by a Black man, record it, or worse, turn and run away? Only to argue that she should be arrested and charged with child endangerment because the only person willing to save her life was her 14-year-old son. God help us all. The impact of slavery and White supremacy knows no end.

Since We All Came From a Womxn

What is our responsibility in moments like these? Are we not each other’s keepers? Are we all individuals and the concept of community and village dead? Are the Christian beliefs of this nation, that many of us hold dear, not actionable? Beliefs like, “love your neighbor.” Far too often Black womxn’s sense of love and protection are taken without regard, without protest, without outrage, without consequences. What we cannot do is continue to accept the disrespect and hate of Black womxn as normal. I’m not asking for a friend. I am asking as a Black womxn: where do we go from here?


Posted on

“Through My Eyes”

Tyre Nichols Cannot Die in Vain

[WARNING: Sensitive Images below. Images may be triggering. Proceed with caution.]

By: Verde Arzu

Tyre Nichols Photography


Imagine driving home one winter evening. You can hear your stomach grumbling. You think about the meal you plan to warm up. Maybe you wonder if your mom cooked dinner, and if she did, you hope it’s one of your favorites. You drive by landmarks that have grown familiar to you.  You hardly pay attention to them anymore. Your mind drifts to the images of the burnt orange sunset resting in your camera. You hope you captured it just right.  That tingling sensation of happiness and purpose fills you, and you smile. You are excited about editing them and adding them on to your website. Maybe those thoughts drift into a daydream about those images one day catapulting you into photography stardom. Imagine making plans to hang out with your son soon. You will take him to his favorite place and maybe even buy him that toy he’s been asking about. Imagine seeing those blue and red flashing lights suddenly appear behind you. Even though you have done nothing wrong, you are nervous. You know how these “routine traffic stops” can go. You remain calm. You know you haven’t done anything wrong. You weren’t speeding. You didn’t violate any other traffic rules. Your seatbelt is on. You are not a criminal. This will be quick, you think. But…you…are…BLACK.

Tyre Nichols 

Born June 15, 1993, Tyre D. Nichols was a “beautiful soul” who loved his family, photography, capturing sunsets, and skateboarding. Those who know him well remember him as peaceful and full of joy. A man who loved his mother dearly, having moved from Sacramento to Memphis to be close to her again. A son who had his mother’s name tattooed on his arm. A Cali kid who preferred Vans over Jordans and the San Francisco 49ers football team. Tyre Nichols grew up in Sacramento, CA and attended the Twins Rivers Unified School District. He was a son, a father, a brother, a nephew, a friend, a human being with his whole life ahead of him. He worked a regular evening job and had a passion for photography. He hoped to capture his story through his lens. As stated on his website, “Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people.” Just as young people do, Tyre Nichols was learning to figure out how to make his dreams a reality. A man we will remember, as his family and friends knew him, as someone who had love for everyone. 

Sixty-eight years later Black Americans still demand justice for their unarmed Black bodies. [Pictured here: Tyre Nichols (left), Emmett Till (right).] Images of Emmett Till’s body reignited The Civil Rights Movement, which led to desegregation and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

George Floyd Justice in Police Act 

Sixty-eight years ago the world viewed images of a 14 year old boy’s mutilated body. That teenager was Emmett Till. He was visiting family in Mississippi when he was kidnapped from their home for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Just as Tyre Nichols was kidnapped from his car for allegedly driving reckless. Till was then beaten, shot in the head, tied to a cotton gin fan, and thrown in the Tallahatchie River. His body, identifiable only by the ring on his finger. Tyre Nichols’s Black body was batoned, pepper sprayed, and repeatedly beaten in the dark of night. Mamie Till, the mother of Emmitt Till, demanded an open casket at his funeral. She allowed Jet magazine to publish pictures of her son’s body. She wanted the world to see what happened to her son. Like Mamie Till, RowVaughn Wells wanted the world to see what happened to her son, too.

The images of Emmett Till sparked strong emotions across the country. Emmett Till’s mutilated body became the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Tyre Nichols’s beaten body lying in a hospital bed must reignite our fight to demand that Congress pass The George Floyd Justice in Police Act. In summary, “This bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It increases accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restricts the use of certain policing practices, enhances transparency and data collection, and establishes best practices and training requirements.” To learn more visit:

Vice President Kamala Harris, spoke at Nichols’s funeral. In regard to The George Floyd Justice in Police Act, she said, “We will not be denied. It is not negotiable.” 

Tyre D. Nichols deserved to live. He deserved to be known by the world for his photography. He told his mother he would be famous one day. We must ensure that he did not die in vain. Rosa Parks recalled being told to move to the back of the bus, but with the image of Emmett Till’s body fresh in her mind, she said she could no longer do it. She was fed up! No more! The laws must be changed. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and the knowledge of history. We must stay persistent, not grow weary, and fight until The George Floyd Justice in Police Act is passed! No more!

Call, email, protest and create social media posts demanding that your congressional representatives ensure that The George Floyd Justice in Police Act is passed this year. We can no longer wait! We must write and email President Biden. He must continue to talk about it. He must continue to apply pressure on Congress to pass this bill! 

May the memory and legacy of Tyre Nichols live on forever. Ase.

Verde Arzu is an independent author at Rainbow Editions, LLC. She writes about Black queer fiction and Black life. Growing up on the Southside of Chicago influences her work. Verde Arzu is also the host of her own podcast, Verde’s Folding Chair. A Black queer podcast that focuses on elevating the voices and experiences of Black womxn.


Posted on Leave a comment

Black Lives Have Always Mattered and So Has Your Silence

“People have got to get together and work together. I’m tired of the kind of oppression that White people have inflicted on us and are still trying to inflict.” -Fannie Lou Hamer

Black Lives Matter is a trending topic right now but this isn’t a trend for us. We can’t just move on to the next trend once the momentum has shifted. We have to live in these Black bodies without reprieve. And don’t get me wrong, we love being in these Black bodies! We know who we are; regardless of what the world tries to tell us, all while stealing, looting, & appropriating everything that embodies blackness…from our lips to our colloquialisms. 

But you—you’ve been silent about our fight to exist. You’ve had the luxury to just stand there and watch…and perhaps feel bad about it. You’ve found justification in questions like, “but why did he run?” You have feigned ignorance long enough. 

We are still going to need you (hell, we’ve always needed you). Who doesn’t need an ally—a co-conspirator in times of war? Yes, this is war for us…a constant battle, make no mistake about it. Every day is a fight to exist when you’re Black in America. Can you imagine waking up everyday and along with everything else you have to do, you also have to validate and affirm your very existence? In the boardroom, behind the desk, on the bus stop, at the corner store where we spend money daily, walking down the street, in the classroom, getting some air with your family at the park, jogging, hustling, sitting, standing, driving, talking, breathing… 

We never get a break from this reality. We don’t get to change the hashtags. So, when the next news topic comes roaring in, now, like us, you can’t just move on.

You will never be able to be silent about White privilege and/or racism ever again. That is one of the social shifts that is so pivotal in this moment. You are finally being held accountable for your silent compliance. You can’t run from the call—you can’t ignore what you have always known to be a violation of our basic human rights and then say you are not a racist—not anymore. We will not allow it. We’ve had enough of your silence while you invite us over to have dinner at your table. You are either doing anti-racist work or you are a racist.

Our lives matter whether we are marching or trending. So, find the book recommendation lists, get to reading. Listen to your Black friends, colleagues, associates, and those who are impacted by systemic racism everyday. Learn about anti-racist work and how to be an anti-racist warrior everyday,  because the fight for justice didn’t just begin in 2020, and it is far from over. And your silence is no longer acceptable.

-Verde Arzu