Mary Engelbreit Riles Fans With New Art in Solidarity With #BlackLivesMatter Protests

Not everyone likes the beloved illustrator's new uncompromising message.

New graphic, posted August 7 to Mary Engelbreit's Facebook page
New graphic, posted August 7 to Mary Engelbreit's Facebook page

Mary Engelbreit is not backing down. On the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown last week, the phenomenally popular St. Louis-based children’s artist posted a new image (above) to her very active Facebook page, a rather clear statement of solidarity with the continuing movement for racial justice. It has been shared, so far, more than 14,000 times.

The new image is a sequel of sorts. Last year, as nearby Ferguson, Missouri became a catalyzing national symbol of racism and police violence in the United States, Engelbreit unexpectedly joined the conversation with a print featuring an African-American mother sadly teaching her child to hold his hands aloft in the “hands up, don’t shoot” posture:

Mary Engelbreit, "In the USA" (2014)"

Mary Engelbreit, In the USA (2014). Courtesy: Mary Engelbreit, via Facebook (2014).

It became wildly popular—though also not a little controversial—with fans, some of whom accused her of supporting “thugs.” On the anniversary last week, Engelbreit reposted the image, accompanied by the following reflections:

It’s been a year since unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed in the street by a policeman. The protests about his death and countless others have seemed to do some good, leading Missouri governor Jay Nixon to order the retraining of police in conflict resolution. Don’t stop protesting. Fight racism.

As for the new image, the caption accompanying it was even clearer:

Regardless of the details of Michael Brown’s actions, none of which deserved the death penalty, by the way, his death made people open their eyes to the racism in this country. It opened the eyes of the government on local, state, and federal levels. It became impossible to ignore anymore. Changes are slowly being made. Today, on the 1 year anniversary of his death, peaceful protests are being held across the country. This is my way of participating in those peaceful protests. If you’d like to leave this page and throw out all your ME [Mary Engelbreit] items, be my guest. Just don’t throw them AT people—that would not be peaceful.

In fact, Engelbreit’s original posting actually was more forceful still, with the following concluding line, subsequently cut:

There are no words to express how little I care if I lose every bigoted, racist, homophobic and/or sexist follower I have.

This bit of editing is, perhaps, indicative of how unusual the tone of Engelbreit’s new “I Will Not Be Silent to Make You Comfortable” piece is compared with her normal, more warm-and-fuzzy tone.

Another illustration, posted to Facebook the same day, also seems to allude to the grim anniversary, but in a way closer to the comforting vibe expected of her, featuring a white woman horrified by the day’s news, and a soothing Paul Harvey koan:

Image posted August 7 to Mary Engelbreit Facebook

Image posted August 7 to Mary Engelbreit Facebook

Most of the comments from Engelbreit’s fans on her Facebook page have been of the “right on, Mary!” variety. Some, however, took umbrage with her remarks and swore off her artwork for good:

Screen capture of comment thread from Mary Engelbreit's Facebook

Screen capture of comment thread from Mary Engelbreit’s Facebook

In the days since, Engelbreit has been mainly back to less contentious fare. On Tuesday, she posted a graphic from her “Mary’s Mottos” calendar, however, which may be seen to address the matter of solidarity:

Image from "Mary's Mottos" calendar, posted to Facebook

Image from “Mary’s Mottos” calendar, posted to Facebook

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