Cartoonist and illustrator Barry Blitt is best known for his work with The New Yorker, and his latest cover for the magazine depicts Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a re-imagining of images seen in photos from the Selma-To-Montgomery march events. In the illustration, Rev. King is seen walking — arms locked — with slain Staten Island, N.Y., resident Eric Garner and fallen NYPD officer Wenjian Liu with slain Black teenagers Trayvon Martin and Michael “Mike” Brown in the background.
The image is enhanced due to the inclusion of the American flag behind the marchers, and the serene look on the faces of the figures invites a moment of reflection of what was lost. Blitt was inspired to draw the cover for the New Yorker’s upcoming cover story, “The Dream Of Reconciliation,” because of the Selma marches. With King’s birthday on Jan. 15th, and the upcoming recognition of the civil rights leader this coming Monday, the timeliness of the illustration is noteworthy.
“It struck me that King’s vision was both the empowerment of African Americans, the insistence on civil rights, but also the reconciliation of people who seemed so hard to reconcile,” he said. “In New York and elsewhere, the tension between the police and the policed is at the center of things. Like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Martin Luther King was taken way too early. It is hard to believe things would have got as bad as they are if he was still around today.”
As the nation continues to grapple with the loss of Martin, Garner, Brown, Liu and his partner Officer Rafael Ramos, there is a collective outpouring of grief and questions that are still yet unanswered. Blitt, in his words, seems to recognize the weight of his art and the inquiries it will surely spark in the days to come.