Due to the tragic murders of George Floyd, Manuel Ellis, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and far too many other African-Americans, racial injustices that Black people experience every day have come to the forefront of white consciousness once again. We’ve been examining how this very real-world issue affects the hobby we participate in, not just for a moment in time but on an ongoing basis. Earlier this week, we sat down with Canadian artist Ekow Nimako, whose LEGO work we’ve featured several times, including his stunning Flower Girl sculpture and wonderful Beasts from Bricks book.
Our conversation with Ekow covered his experience growing up playing with LEGO, interactions with the LEGO hobbyist community, the Afrocentric and Afrofuturist themes of his artwork, and how LEGO communities such as The Brothers Brick can operate more inclusively.
We ask you to watch the full video before reacting with comments. While the reaction from some quarters to recent statements we’ve made that Black Lives Matter has been dismissed as “political” and some reactions have been outright hateful, by and large the response from the LEGO hobbyist community has been empathetic and supportive. Nevertheless, there is much more to be done. A number of our readers have rightly pointed out The Brothers Brick’s own contributor list as one area where we can improve, asking us to work harder to recruit a more diverse team while highlighting more non-white builders and highlighting the LEGO creations of people of color. As I committed to during the video conversation with Ekow, one of our next steps will be to kick off a new round of contributor recruiting to improve our own diversity and better represent the community we are a part of.
In response to the growing protests about racial inequality centered in the US, LEGO announced that they stand with the black community and will donate $4 million to several organizations working to both support and educate children about racial equality. The donation is one of the largest by a corporation announced so far, similar in scale to the $5 million donation announced by Disney.
LEGO’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement and their sizeable donation is a notable response to the tragic events unfolding throughout the US, especially considering their own flagship store in New York was looted earlier this week. These pictures from Twitter users @aaronwhite and @SteveKornacki show the Flatiron District LEGO Store’s windows smashed and shelves wiped clean, with only a broken Star Destroyer and a few permanent displays remaining.
LEGO’s core values state that the company will strive to “make a positive difference in the lives of children… not because we have to – but because it feels right and because we care.” LEGO has also asked retailers and affiliates to pause advertising a variety of products including City sets featuring police officers and firefighters as well as the new LEGO Architecture White House.
Here at The Brothers Brick, we’ve taken “political” stands on matters of peace and justice for as long as the LEGO building community has created LEGO art that communicates an important message, whether that message was in support of marriage equality way back in 2006 or freedom of discourse in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015. Dave Kaleta joins a chorus of people around the world who choose not to remain silent in these excruciating, infuriating times.
From a LEGO build perspective, Dave uses largely disconnected white slopes, tiles, and plates to surround solidly attached black bricks. Dave also leverages the new range of small curved tiles to create the lettering along the bottom of the mosaic. But the build and its techniques are hardly what grab my attention.
A few thoughts on the intersection of LEGO, art, politics, and privilege