"It could have been me. It could have been me."
These were the words uttered by painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was deeply shaken after he heard the story of a black graffiti artist who was beaten to death by New York City police. Seeing his own life reflected in the death of a fellow artist, Basquiat went on to create Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), not only to commemorate the young man's death, but also to challenge the state-sanctioned brutality that men of color could face for pursuing their art in public spaces.
Copyright © 2013 NPR. This blog post first appeared online in Code Switch: Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity (web log) (September 16, 2013).
Nielson, Erik. "'It Could Have Been Me': The 1983 Murder of a NYC Graffiti Artist." Code Switch: Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity (web log), September 16, 2013. Accessed January 17, 2014. http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/09/16/221821224/it-could-have-been-me-the-1983-death-of-a-nyc-graffiti-artist.
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