Maxwell Emcays is a Chicago artist, author, activist, and mentor who travels around the Chicagoland area with his art pieces to express the inequalities, oppression, and families who have lost loved one due to violence seeking justice.
Maxwell Emcays pop-up artwork, “Demand Justice” are two 12-foot structures of wooden portraits of influential figures Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. His inspiration for designing the artwork was the awareness of himself, situations, and where he lived.
Maxwell Emcays’, “Demand Justice”, outdoor display draws attention and becomes a focal point, and sometimes, not well received. “Overall, it has been a positive experience. When people stop by my artwork, it pulls their attention and makes them curious. However, it also depends where my pieces are located. There are neighborhoods and areas where people are more uptight about this expression and are not interested in interacting with that particular voice. But I do believe that it is something that we have to engage with regularly,” says Emcays.
The “Demand Justice” pop-ups last between 5 to 45 minutes. The artwork has taken place in over 50 locations such as Buckingham Fountain, Paul Robeson High School, and Operation Push, to name a few. Some locations include marches, vigils, and performances. Maxwell Emcays also has collaborated with organizations and community groups.
Maxwell Emcays’ “Demand Justice”, pop-up came in response to limitations and being kicked off the steps of many places where his artwork was not welcomed. There is no platform for him to display his art. “In general, the pop-up should not have to exist. I should not have to hijack locations and express my blackism. When you look at the pop-up, it is the lack of infrastructure and opportunities to express this message. I had to develop this pop-up because there are no venues where black art can exist and be expressed without going through crazy hoops and making special calls,” says Emcays.
There are colorful Demand Justice signs in African colors (black, red, yellow, and green) to fight against gun violence and unify the community. The signage has been displayed at the March with Jennifer Hudson and Chance the Rapper at St. Sabina, Dan Ryan Shut Down, Walk with Her (Missing Black Girls), and the Englewood school closing protest.
Maxwell Emcays is working on taking this Demand Justice pop-up nationwide. He is scheduled to display his artwork in Grand Rapids, MI, and St. Louis, MO.
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