Fatima Laster, who grew up on the North Side near the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, Atkinson and Keefe avenues, recently moved back to Milwaukee from Chicago. She left a commercial banking career to pursue her love of fine art in her more affordable hometown. A Washington University graduate, Laster said that most of her work is contemporary and abstract, incorporating mixed media, but in her painting “Be My Voice” she wanted to draw attention to the fact that it is not just black men and boys who are brutalized by police in this country. Black women and girls suffer abuse in equal measure.
The painting depicts an American flag rendered with exterior house paint, in which messages and newspaper clippings about police brutality against black women are embedded. Invisible from a distance, these messages become visible as the viewer approaches the painting.
Laster was gratified, she said, when a 13-year-old boy who viewed the painting understood it immediately. He told her it reminded him of a time when his aunt, in whose car he was riding, was stopped and manhandled by a police officer. Only 3 years old at the time, the boy recalled the incident when he saw Laster’s painting.