Painting the Truth of Police Brutality in America

George Floyd Mural
The now-iconic George Floyd Mural that artist Cadex Herrera helped create. (Courtesy Dymanh Chhoun)

As Black Lives Matter protests spread throughout the world, a 45-year-old Belizean artist hopes his art will inspire people to consider the big and complicated picture of racial injustice.  

Cadex Herrera recently worked on a mural near Cup Foods in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the location where George Floyd took his final breath.  

Herrera, along with two other artists, created a mural spanning 20 feet wide and nearly 7 feet tall to honor Floyd at the site of the killing.  

Herrera’s work quickly turned into a central meeting place for people to show their respect to Floyd and express their outrage about police brutality. It became the backdrop of press conferences and memorials.  

Herrera wanted to create a place where people could stop, reflect, think and come together.  

“Murals are supposed to do that in a way. … It gives you a sense of place, a sense of community, a sense of belonging,” Herrera said. 

“The job of that piece is to move the viewer to have them emotionally react to it and through that reaction create change,” Herrera added.   

The mural has become a fundamental symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement, something Herrera did not expect. 

Herrera incorporated several symbols in the mural. Floyd’s image is showcased in the center of “a sunflower to represent loyalty and life,” said Herrera.  The black center of the sunflower contains names of Black Americans killed during altercations with police in recent years.  

“They’re sort of representing the people who never got to be flowers … those seeds never got to grow,” Herrera said. “Part of the movement is to remember the names of people of color who have been killed by police officers. I wanted to make that a visual element of part of the mural and wanted to show that, you know, that there’s support in the community.” 

Herrera described why his mural features many people with raised fists.  

“The people … don’t have any sort of color or features so I wanted to make a statement,” he said. “It’s all of us, right? It’s people, every sort of denomination, every race.” 

Ever since Herrera was able to hold a pencil, art has empowered him to express his feelings in ways words could not.  

“(Artwork) really allows you to … get involved within yourself and also allows you to process information differently,” Herrera said. 

“I hope people use their creative talents and skills to bring awareness to whatever they’re passionate about. I think that you can truly use art as an amplifier,” he said. “You can use any skill to amplify what you feel passionate about is right and that’s what I think that social justice is all about.” 

Herrera frequently shares his most recent work about spreading awareness of social injustice, immigration and the environment on social media. His Instagram account is @cadexherrera

Herrera hopes artists of all kinds will deliver their unique messages.  

“It’s more important than ever that you get the word out there because the more people start talking about the things that they’re seeing happening, the more we can consolidate that information and amplify it,” he said. “This is what’s happening; we need change.”