Boston’s Black History: A profile of artist Cedric Douglas

Boston's Black history: Street artist Cedric Douglas

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Graphic artist, graffiti artist, social movement documenter… Cedric Douglas has been called many things. But he calls himself a social interventionist.

Douglas’ art has taken him around the world, documenting social movements. The shooting death of Michael Brown inspired his “Tools of Protest” project where he printed rolls of caution tape with phrases like “I can’t breathe” and “Don’t shoot”. He and his team hand them out to demonstrators calling for police reform and racial justice.

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“Art has the ability to tell a story that a conversation can’t have. And when it’s in a public space, people have to see it and have to have these conversations,” Douglas said.

Last year, after the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End was removed, Douglas got together with other artists to create the People’s Memorial Project. They projected images of local civil rights leaders on the base where the Columbus statue once stood.

“The caution tape was memorializing people that were killed by police, and this is memorializing people, some are alive and some have done amazing things, but it’s using this kind of technique called projection mapping to honor people,” explains Douglas.

He grew up in Grove Hall and then Quincy with his three siblings. Taught and inspired by his uncles, who were graffiti artists, Douglas says he threw himself into drawing and wanted to imitate their work. In the 1990s he was arrested at 16 for tagging a rundown basketball court. His Jamaican-born mother wasn’t happy, but it was a breakthrough for Douglas.

“I was trying to be creative. I was trying to express myself. I just didn’t know how. And I ended up figuring it out,” Douglas said. He added his connection to community drives his work. Douglas is the creative director of the Up Truck, a mobile arts lab created with his partner to engage residents of Uphams Corner in Dorchester. Douglas has been an artist-in-residence at Northeastern University and Emerson College. His work can be seen all over greater Boston.

“The work we’re doing as artists is part of that movement and I think it all connects to what’s happening in society. It becomes almost like a way of documenting what’s happening in the present moment that you can look back and see this work and then people can inspire to continue these conversations.”

Boston's Black History: Capturing a Movement