Creative outlets are often used to express emotion when words fall short. After the inhumane killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many people struggled to find the words to describe their pain, especially in the midst of a pandemic. As tensions between government bodies, local leaders, and protesters boiled, artists such as Pan Cooke found new ways to show how prevalent police brutality really is.
Contributing writer Jaelyn Decena collaborated with Pan Cooke for an interview regarding the creative process.
How long have you been creating art?
I’ve been doing art in some way for most of my life.
What inspired you to create art?
A lot of things inspire me to create, but it’s something I feel I need to do in a way. Having a creative outlet is important to me.
What is a piece that has the most importance to you? What is the message behind that piece and why is it important to you?
I don’t think I have a certain piece that I would consider the most important to me. I have pieces that at the time held a lot of value, but it’s always changing.
I wanted to talk about your most recent comics telling stories about police brutality. What is the goal of your most recent comics?
When I started the comics it was a very simple goal - to educate myself in a creative way. As time has gone by more and more people seem to be learning as well which is great, we are learning together.
What message/messages do you hope to get out of your recent works?
I don’t think I have a message. My hope is people will read these stories and be inspired to become more proactive themselves - whether it be signing a petition, donating to a gofundme campaign or doing further research themselves [about the Black Lives Matter movement].
What was the main source of inspiration behind your recent comics relating to police brutality?
My own passive ignorance was the main drive behind my recent comics. After blackout Tuesday (a trend on Instagram where people posted blank black squares as an attempt to show solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement), it really dawned on me how little I knew about [systemic racism and police brutality]. By creating these comics, I plan to correct that.
What importance does the fight for black lives have for you?
It’s hugely important to me, as it should be for everyone. I hope I am doing my part to promote the importance [that the movement has].
Is there anything you would like to let others know about you and your work?
One of the main points I try to make when talking to people about my recent comics is that I am not teaching anyone, nor am I a news source, or an Instagram brand run by several different people. I’m just a guy drawing in his room trying my best to be better. I’m still learning and I hope [that] through what I’m doing, others are too.
Given the pandemic, artists like Pan Cooke have been actively using their platforms as a contributing way to engage in the fight for human rights. Cooke’s art reveals a raw perspective by illustrating what happened to victims of police brutality, including Anthony Hill, John Crawford III, and Mahummad Muhaymin. Additionally, Cooke (within his capacity) enlightens his audience not only about police brutality, but the truth behind America’s glorification of Christopher Columbus, and stories of asylum seekers, such as Tumi, who “is an asylum seeker in Direct Provision in Ireland” (@thefakepan Instagram). By contributing to the public’s attention to the stories of victims of police brutality, and the overall mistreatment of people of colour, Pan Cooke’s illustrations actively reminds people to always be empathetic towards one another.