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Arts / DEI / Social justice / Social media

Philly artists are using Instagram as a platform for digital activism

From photos of airbrush memorials of victims of police brutality to poignant graphics telling you not to look away, social media can help people better understand the moment.

Visual artist @Jayo_V's artwork on the boards covering Dahlak Paradise. (Photo by Julie Zeglen)

This editorial article is a part of Racial Equity Month of's editorial calendar.

Update: Comment from Kodjovi Sevon has been added. (6/16/20, 6:55 p.m.)

At a moment when Americans cannot turn away from their phones, local visual artists are using Instagram to help them mourn and support social change.

The coronavirus pandemic already increased the importance of social networking applications with stay-at-home orders and social distancing keeping people indoors. But after George Floyd’s killing on May 25 led to protests for racial equality and against police brutality, artists have used social media platforms to help raise raise awareness.

Philadelphia-based creators have used Instagram to share artwork commemorating Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people that have been killed by police and directing people to places where they donate money and resources. For these artists, documenting life during the time of protests has been a way of shedding light on what’s happening.

Here are five we’ve spotted recently:

Symone Salib

Painter, street artist and muralist Salib uses Instagram to engage over 10,000 followers about Black activism, trans rights and more. Her June 15 post emphasizes the phrase “ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER” with an illustration of Dominque Rem’mie Fells at its center.

Fells was a 27-year-old Black trans women whose maimed body was discovered in Southwest Philadelphia last week. There is a link for donations in Salib’s bio for a GoFundMe supporting Morris Home, the first residential recovery program in the country to offer comprehensive services specifically for trans- and gender non-conforming individuals.

Kodjovi Sevon

The local visual artist’s artwork on the boards covering Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant Dahlak Paradise in Cedar Park stands out because of its starkness and the person it honors — Breonna Taylor.

Sevon used airbrush to depict Taylor, who was killed by Louisville, Kentucky police on March 13. The “SAY HER NAME” message is a call to remember Black women who died by police violence.

“Breonna Taylor’s situation is not as famous as George Floyd’s,” Sevon told “I painted that one to bring light to her story.”

Marian Bailey

Bailey is a self-taught artist illustrator, muralist and logo designer. Their May 31 Instagram illustration depicts a Black woman with bright colors in her background to share a sentiment felt by many Black people: “STOP KILLING US.”

In a poignant call to action, Bailey is instructive: “Keep talking about it, keep protesting, keep donating to bail out funds, keep organizing, and keep uplifting black folks because we really fucking need it!”

Molly Egan

Egan, a South Philadelphia-based illustrator, has done commercial artwork for clients like Disney, Samsung and Paramount Pictures. In a June 1 post, Egan emphasized the importance of white people supporting Black people against injustice.

“White society needs to be held accountable for our actions,” she said. “We need to listen, read, learn, and do better for Black Americans and really, all POC,”

Rachel Breeden

Breeden is a local artist, designer and illustrator. In a May 31 post that received more than 6,000 likes, Breeden used ’70s style graphics and a pair of eyes to remind her 44,000 followers, “DON’T LOOK AWAY.” In a compelling caption, Breeden implored viewers to empathize with Black people.

“Police brutality and systemic racism are daily realities for too many people who do not have the luxury of making that choice,” she said. “Sit with this discomfort, absorb others’ pain, listen to Black communities when they say there is a problem. There is clearly a problem. Don’t look away from it.”

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Instagram
Series: Racial Equity Month 2020

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