Time's Newest Cover Is A Heartbreaking Testament To Black Motherhood

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Time's Newest Cover Is A Heartbreaking Testament To Black Motherhood
Titus Kaphar/Time Magazine

The cover represents the tragic and unnecessary loss Black mothers have endured for centuries

TIME magazine has devoted its June 15 cover to Black mothers who’ve lost their children to racist violence in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The magazine enlisted the help of American artist Titus Kaphar, who titled the piece “Analogous Colors,” featuring an African-American mother holding her child with the child cut out, the canvas representing a mother’s profound loss. In the video moments before Floyd’s death, he called out for his mother, Larcenia Floyd, who died two years prior. “Mamma!” Floyd can be heard saying. “Mamma! I’m through.” Since his death, protests have erupted in all 50 states as the nation calls for the end of police brutality and systemic racism that has been happening in America for 400 years.

“In her expression, I see the black mothers who are unseen, and rendered helpless in this fury against their babies,” Kaphar tells TIME. “As I listlessly wade through another cycle of violence against black people, I paint a black mother … eyes closed, furrowed brow, holding the contour of her loss. This black mother understands the fire. Black mothers understand despair. I can change nothing in this world, but in paint, I can realize her. That brings me solace … not hope, but solace. She walks me through the flames of rage. My black mother rescues me yet again. I need to be sure that they can see her. I want to be certain that her story is told. And so this time, America needs to hear her voice.”

Surrounding the painting in a red border are the names of 35 Black men and women who were the result of systemic racism (many at the hands of police) — just a small percentage of those who have been murdered in our country’s history — and many of whom sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.

Their names are Trayvon Martin, Yvette Smith, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Jerame Reid, Natasha McKenna, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, William Chapman, Sandra Bland, Darrius Stewart, Samuel DuBose, Janet Wilson, Calin Roquemore, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Joseph Mann, Terence Crutcher, Chad Robertson, Jordan Edwards, Aaron Bailey, Stephon Clark, Danny Ray Thomas, Antwon Rose, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

Kaphar also painted the cover of TIME’s 2014 cover, capturing the impact of the Ferguson protest. He titled the oil painting “Yet Another Fight for Remembrance.”

“How do I explain to my children that the very system set up to protect others could be a threat to our existence?” Kaphar tells TIME. “How do I shield them from the psychological impact of knowing that for the rest of our lives we will likely be seen as a threat?”

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