Megan Coates

How will they be remembered? Megan Coates, a senior Archaeology major, didn't want to see another image or video of brutalized bodies - that's not how the black lives lost unjustly should be remembered, she thought.

Megan Coates

We're used to seeing the faces with bruises and autopsy photos... I wanted people to see these people as human beings. Not just as victims...

Recalling that Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged activists to march in their Sunday best, she got out her drawing supplies to memorialize the human lives how she feels they deserve to be remembered.

Coates is making a calendar that shows hand-drawn "pictures of these people as they lived in everyday life.

"The project started from a place of "powerlessness" that resulted from watching the traumatizing footage over and over again. Turning off the news felt too much like "ignoring it." 

"We're used to seeing the faces with bruises and autopsy photos. I was so tired of that. In the calendar, we would look at the faces, these victims of injustice and police brutality, in a different way. I wanted people to see these people as human beings. Not just as victims, as bodies, as corpses, another case study and another case of some black person being murdered," said Coates.

Their stories are told through her attention to detail.

Megan Coates Portraits Photo 1
Megan Coates Portraits Photo 2
Megan Coates Portraits Photo 3
Megan Coates Portraits Photo 4
Megan Coates Portraits Photo 5

In describing her drawing of Tamir Rice, Coates recalled, "as I was sketching his teeth and mouth, I specifically remember that his teeth hadn't fully formed yet. They don't show this picture very often. They show the still of him being murdered. He was outside playing with a toy and he was murdered."

Coates said the hardest part of the calendar project is choosing the 12 faces to include. There are so many lives to choose from.

Coates began drawing a few years ago. "I went to Greece in 2017 and remember being inspired by the light. It's so beautiful there. When I returned to the states, I missed the light, and regretted not having taken more pictures. So I started drawing and painting what I remembered, and I've been painting and drawing ever since," she said.

Coates holds the student role as executive director of Diversity Initiatives at Stockton and Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. She plans to pursue a Phd in Archaeology and hopes to become a professor at Stockton.

"I want to continue the work of Professor David Roessel. He's my mentor and the man who brought me to Greece and gave me the courage to pursue my passion," she said. 


This Voice was originally published in 2020. At the time of publication, Coates was a student in the Archaeology program. Coates is now an alumna of Stockton.