A Malden-Native Cartoonist and Activist Creates a Very Different Kind of ‘Black Mug Shot’


Politics


“I don’t want my kids to be in a mugshot every time they see someone who looks like them.”

Malden native Keith Knight has been a professional cartoonist for the past 30 years. from work to Syndicated comic strips and panels In a Hulu television show for children’s books,”pickingThe cartoonist’s career has been diverse, to say the least. But over the past month his art has taken a really unexpected turn.

His most recent work, called “black mug shots”, is a website and social media hashtag developed by the cartoonist late last year that seeks to change the story surrounding criminal mugshots and the black community.


The project itself is very simple, focused on social media hashtags #blackmugshots, Black participants post pictures of themselves holding mugs of any color, while other race participants post photos with black mugs. In a clever play on words, these pictures are collectively titled “Black Mug Shots”.

Knight began the project from a place of discontent over the story the internet has built around the African-American community through police mugshots.

The site mugshots.com, an aggregator for mugshots across the United States, is a website that makes huge profits from the proliferation of mugshots on the Internet.


“‘Black mug shots’ came from my frustration with the proliferation of mugshots, especially for people of color online,” Knight told Greeley Tribune.com. “Every black person you see on the Internet is in a mugshot, it’s harmful.”

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A 2016 survey by Univision’s Fusion Network of 74 newspapers in the United States found that 40 percent of the papers published mugshot galleries. this gallery Mugshots and charges displayed for newly arrested persons without any further reference or follow-up action from the local area.

Following George Floyd protests in the spring and summer of 2020, some newspapers and police departments in the United States resolved to stop releasing mugshots of arrested persons. Although there are examples of organizations prohibiting this practice, many websites in the United States continue to post images.


Knight was deeply impressed by such frequent displays of mugshots in newspapers and on their websites. So he decided to complain to his local newspaper in North Carolina.

“I went to a local news agency to complain and I said, ‘I don’t want my kids, every time they see someone who looks like them. [it’s] In a mugshot,” he said.

After some time, Knight decided to start the “Black Mug Shots” project. For the cartoonist, although it is not a typical cartoon, he considers the project an extension of his work.

“Everything I do starts with my cartoons and It started with a comic strip, Everything bounces from there. I’ve been a cartoonist for a very long time, but then I did a lot more,” he said.

Knight initially billed the project as an attempt to influence search algorithms around the term “black mugshots”.

“I say it’s to change the algorithm, but I know you can’t go against Google,” he said. “But I would say that when you see ‘Black Mugshot,’ there is a picture of me with my mug shot among all the other real mugshots.”

The project, in the month or so it’s been active, has already accumulated about 225 posts with its mugs from users across the United States. place Blackmugshots.com Also compiles photos of users who have participated in the initiative.

As explained by Knight, the project is a way to bring awareness to an issue that affects him on a personal level.

“There is nothing to shed light on the media’s reliance on these mugshots and how it hurts the people who hurt them,” he said.

In the future, the cartoonist hopes to feature “black mug shots” to highlight the experiences of people damaged by the practice of posting these mugshots without context or follow-up.

“I would love to have people who have this experience of having their mugshots on the Internet and be able to take a picture of them with the mug,” Knight said.

More information about the project can be found here Blackmugshots.comon Instagram account @blackmugshots, on Twitter @blackmugshots, and by searching the hashtag #blackmugshots.