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In New Book ‘Boarded Up Chicago,’ Flossmoor Teen And His Dad Capture Protest Art Across The City

High school freshman Zachary Slaughter toured the city with his dad, Chris, to photograph street art after George Floyd's killing.

Zachary and Chris Slaughter pose with their book "Boarded Up Chicago" at a 75th Street cleanup organized by Zachary's grandmother Jera in August 2020.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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SOUTH SHORE — A suburban teen captured hundreds of photos of the street art that was created in protest after police killed George Floyd in June, and now he’s releasing the photos in a book.

Zachary Slaughter, of suburban Flossmoor, bought a camera with his eighth-grade graduation money. Then protests erupted in Chicago in response to Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.

Slaughter and his father, Chris, embarked on a tour of the city, capturing artistic statements against police brutality.

“I saw a lot of good pictures,” said Zachary Slaughter, 14. “I like to draw, too, so it inspired me.”

The Slaughters’ effort started as a way to safely get out of the house and bond. But they soon realized they could turn the photos into a larger project, culminating in a book of Zachary’s photography, “Boarded Up Chicago: Storefront Images Days After the George Floyd Riots.”

For four days in mid-June, the father and son captured pieces “as far north as Foster, as far south as The Hundreds, as far west as Pulaski and all the way to the lakefront,” Chris Slaughter said.

The abundance of boarded-up windows during the unrest provided street artists plenty of fresh canvases — and they took advantage. Artists created pieces in the spur of the moment and through formal programs like CPS Lives.

Many of the pieces photographed demand justice for Floyd, call for Black and interracial unity and offer paths forward from the distress of early June.

“It’s not a lot of text in the book; it’s mostly just the photographs,” Chris Slaughter said. “They speak for themselves.”

Credit: Zachary Slaughter
Credit: Zachary Slaughter
Credit: Zachary Slaughter
Credit: Zachary Slaughter
Credit: Zachary Slaughter

Through a cousin who knew how to navigate Amazon’s online publishing software, Chris Slaughter got the 218-page book published, printed and listed for sale.

Zachary’s older sister, Christen, produced a promotional video for the book using photos of the street art and images of Black people killed in racist violence in recent years.

“We have to keep innovating, we have to keep talking to each other, we have to keep coming up with … solutions to these issues and not be frozen by fear,” Chris Slaughter said.

That belief in the power of activism runs in the family. Chris Slaughter’s mother and Zachary’s grandmother is organizer Jera Slaughter, who has led efforts to protect the South Lakefront from erosion and clean up 75th Street this year.

“Boarded Up Chicago” amplifies “the voices [needed] to persevere through the rough times,” Zachary Slaughter said. “We need to change the system that’s going on right now.”

“Boarded Up Chicago: Storefront Images Days After the George Floyd Riots” is available on Amazon for $49.99.

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