By James Muhammad
When noted Cincinnati artist Khonisa Anderson lifted the veil covering her portrait of Xavier Jordan Fair, it was like a veil had been lifted from the heart of Joyce Muhammad. It was a veil that had burdened Xavier’s mom for nearly two years.
Xavier was murdered on May 18, 2021. Khonisa was one of more than 20 artists from around the world who volunteered to draw portraits of mostly Tuskegee murder victims as part of the W.O.M.B. (War On Murder Begins) Project based in the historic southern city. More than 40 portraits were unveiled during a “Grand Unveiling” ceremony held last year.
The goal of The WOMB is to lift the burden of grief and give comfort to family members of murder victims through the gift of professional art renderings of their loved ones. The holistic approach to relieving grief also includes brief biographies written by high school students and young journalists that paint a fuller picture of the victim that otherwise appears in mainstream media. The families also meet regularly to share experiences and support one another.
Lastly, a “Grand Planting” is held in the “Atonement Garden” where fruit trees are planted in honor of the victim. The trees symbolize how memories of the victim fuel those left behind just as the tree continues to reproduce itself through the fruit it yields.