By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Photographer | Published January 7, 2021
SMYRNA–My favorite photograph didn’t make the print edition of The Georgia Bulletin. It went straight to the Georgia Bulletin’s website. It’s the last image in the photo gallery atop Samantha Smith’s June 12 story, “Catholics march in downtown Atlanta for racial justice.”
The photograph is an uncomfortable reminder of the May death of George Floyd, and the unarmed Black people who died before him and since then. Mr. Floyd is the brother in Christ I didn’t know; yet, his death left an insurmountable weight of grief upon my heart that I couldn’t shake.
During the June march through downtown Atlanta, Josh Bland took a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds. It symbolized the length of time the world watched George Floyd die under the knee of Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin.
As I crouched down to get at Bland’s level, I noticed the LED billboard on the building behind him. I thought the message in the background, “use your voice to bring change,” gave added conviction and power to what I was seeing in the foreground.
The presence of this masked protester, leaning on a Black Lives Matter sign, socially distanced from the larger part of the crowd, speaks to the importance he and countless others placed on the value of Black lives and their support of racial justice, even during a global pandemic.
The peaceful marches and protests are over for the moment; yet, the killing of unarmed Black people remains an issue. When I look at this image, I’m reminded of some lyrics in Duke Ellington’s jazz standard, “Come Sunday:”
Lord, dear Lord above,
God almighty, God of love, please
look down and see my people through.
While some people find the three words on Bland’s sign controversial or unspeakable, I believe that Black lives matter to God, the author of creation and life. That’s why this photograph is my personal favorite of 2020.