port of harlem magazine
aviva travel
Artist Carlos Walker: In Real Time
Sep 22 – Oct 05, 2022
The Other Side

Carlos Walker - don't shoot

Three years ago, Carlos Walker walked out of a federal prison after serving 13 years of a 20-year sentence. Armed with new hope, determination, and passion, he had one desire:  to have African Americans see themselves and to gain strength and to think about their lives.

His platform would not be the pulpit nor the street corner. Rather, his platform would be a paint brush, canvas, and a provocative idea. His paintings display the atrocities of dehumanization that people of color have endured for centuries with a twist: The victims are White.

In one oil pastel painting, two African American police officers thrust their knees on the chest of a bleeding White man. Another shows a young White boy holding up a sign that depicts two bloody hands and what has become the Black Lives Matter anthem “Don’t Shoot.” It’s a radical role reversal to the prejudice, violence. and injustice that continues to define the United States.
Walker’s unique perspective has its inception birthed in prison following an incident between an African American correctional officer (C0) and a White inmate.
His vision may cause some to release a dreamy grin and others to scowl. Whatever the response, the images do make a poignant statement. He believes that his art helps us to understand the most difficult, unsettled, and controversial issues of our day, in real time.

Walker’s unique perspective has its inception birthed in prison following an incident between an African American correctional officer (C0) and a White inmate. The CO berated the inmate in front of throng of onlookers. The scene of a Black man in the position of authority caused Walker to imagine a world of African Americans holding power over Whites on a grander scale. Although only a fantasy, to date, the thought inspired the artist to create thus far 48 paintings.

I met the 40-year-old at his home in Northern Virginia. He proudly displayed a room of amazing paintings stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I listened as he described his work in detail, releasing a huge grin like a father cradling his new born. We took a photo with one of his newest works of President Obama and a lion. The caption across the painting read: Endangered Species.

Curiosity gripped me. I had to ask what type of response his art garnered? Not missing a beat, he swiped at a long locs from his face and unapologetically stated, “I want them {White people} to see what it’s like to be on the receiving end.”
His belief in himself derives from a deep belief in God.
He went on the say that both White and Black people have called his work racist. This criticism has not slowed down his enthusiasm or his productivity. His work can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites, and was also featured at Bus Boys and Poets - Shirlington for 18 months. His work is also featured in the self-published book “What If.” To date, he has sold 2,100 personally signed copies. And another 1,600 sold in front of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Walker’s dedication is profound. He even quit a job to pursue his passion. Recently at a book signing for the iconic Angela Davis, he gave her a self-portrait.

His belief in himself derives from a deep belief in God. He speaks openly and fondly about the role scriptures play in his daily life. “God is all I had and all I ever needed,” he declares. It is clear that incarceration didn’t only serve as a spring board for righteous indignation that finds its expression through provocative art, but also a sincere transformation of the spirit, mind, and soul.
Returning citizens face astronomical odds. Their success rate is not good and sadly many suffer from mental health issues. The lack of housing, underemployment, no health care; limited transportation, and no money, direct many returnees to what they know: crime.

The Halifax County, Virginia native is the rare exception. He is laser focused, his mind is clear, and his family support is solid. Although there are hurdles for him finding the exposure his works need to get him to the mega star status he desires, he is relentless in his pursuit for excellence.

“The past is experience, the future is inspiration; your present is the between that allows you to draw from both, the first to change habits to get you to the place, the latter to aspire you to be whom you shall be,” he added.
Return to this issue's Main Page
sign up

follow us on
facebook instagram twitter youtube
Advertisers | Contact Us | Events | Links | Media Kit | Our Company | Payments Pier
Press Room | Print Cover Stories Archives | Electronic Issues and Talk Radio Archives | Writer's Guidelines