The New Yorker‘s latest cover is a Black power masterpiece, a tribute to three men who have stood up for civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, along with Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett, are the subjects of an illustration that married art and activism for the publication’s January 15 issue.
The three powerful men are drawn kneeling with locked arms in the statement-making piece titled “In Creative Battle,” an ode to King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, in which he mentioned a “creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice.” King, who was previously depicted on a New Yorker cover, is front and center between Bennett and Kaepernick in the drawing. The artist was inspired by one key question in completing the work of art.
“I asked myself, What would King be doing if he were around today?,” San Francisco-based artist Mark Ulriksen said about the beloved civil-rights leader.
“This is 49er country, and my mom and I have been going back and forth—she’s upset that players have brought politics into sports, but I say, How would you feel if you had to show up at work every day and salute a country that treats black people like second-class citizens? I’m glad that Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett are making it political,” Ulriksen said. “I’m sure that if King were around today, he’d be disappointed at the slow pace of progress: two steps forward, twenty steps back. Or ten yards back, as the metaphor may be.”
As an activist, Kaepernick took his fight to the NFL and kneeled against police brutality and injustice during San Francisco 49er games. He ignited a fire under many league players who followed in his footsteps with protests. His absence from NFL rosters has not stopped the impact of his activism.
Bennett had also rallied people to talk about race relations. The football player was racially profiled by cops who detained him at gunpoint and made him sit in a car before they verified his identity during a trip to Las Vegas in August. He also participated in anthem protests.
“I hope that I can activate everybody to get off their hands and feet and go out into the communities and push helping each other,” Bennett said about why he was sitting for the anthem, NFL reported. “Sit down with somebody that’s the opposite sex, sit down with somebody that’s the opposite race, different religion and understand that people are different and go out and join the community and try to change the society, change what you’re a part of. If you don’t like it, keep changing it.”