Say Their Names

Say Their Names

Say Their Names is a sound-based memorial to the thousands of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans brutalized and murdered by police actions, or while in police custody. The intent is to bear witness to the memories of these people, and their lives cut short, as we say their names.

Exhibitions / Publications / Broadcasts

Say Their Names Wright, David Thomas Henry. Find Beauty in Code—5 Ways Digital Poetry Combines Human and Computer Languages. The Conversation, 16 June 2020.

Wright cites Say Their Names as an example of "generative poetry" for its use of a "program or algorithm to generate poetic text from a database of words and phrases written or gathered by the digital poet." He goes on to say, "The recent web-based work Say Their Names! by digital artist John Barber generates a list from more than 5,000 names of Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans who have been killed by police officers in the United States from 2015 to the present day. No judgement regarding the victims' guilt or innocence is made. Each name is simply spoken—in a sometimes incongruously cheerful tone—by a computerised voice" (Wright 2020).


Say Their Names was conceptualized and developed in June 2020, during the international protests against police brutality, violence, and racism, following the brutal murder of George Floyd, a 46-year old black man, by officers of the Minneapolis Police Department, who detained Floyd under suspicion of using a counterfeit $20.00 bill, 25 May.

The project seeks to literally say the names of victims of police violence, brutality, and murder. Thousands of names have collected and the search continues.

Accessible as a dedicated website, Say Their Names displays each victim's name on a device screen, along with age, date and place of death. Concurrently, using text-to-speech technology, the name of each victim is spoken. After its display, the name of each victim is added to a memorial list in the monitor's background. Another name is displayed and spoken. The process continues, eternally. With each name displayed, the list grows longer.

The intent of Say Their Names is to make manifest the memory of victims of police killings, to make immediately and viscerally clear that people continue to die in the hands of the police across the country, and to promote meaningful social and civic justice to stop the killings.

A collaborative project between John Barber (conceptual framework), Holly Slocum (research and design), and Greg Philbrook (coding), Say Their Names works as a dedicated website that not only displays names of victims, but, using text-to-speech technology, also speaks their names.


Object: Sound installation, contextualized as website
Duration: Perpetual
Name: Say Their Names
Created: Begun June 2020, continues to present
Conceptual design: John F. Barber
Research and Design: Holly Slocum
Coding: Greg Philbrook
Image: "Say Their Names," by Holly Slocum

Artist Statement

"Say Their Names!"
We heard the chants, and saw these words on countless signs and shirts.

"Say Their Names!"
This is our response, to speak the names of thousands of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans brutalized and murdered by police actions, or while in police custody.

"Say Their Names!"
We make no judgement regarding these victims' guilt or innocence, or whether they deserved death. That decision was made by police officers across the country. Perhaps because these victims were not white, police officers were prone to callousness. Eager to brutalize and murder. Sanctified in their ability to do so.

"Say Their Names!"
Racism and unchecked police brutality have killed thousands of men, women, and children across America. Many of these deaths were never fully reported, so we can call them only "Unidentified Victims." Still, we speak of them to keep their memories alive.

"Say Their Names!"
Our timeline is 2015 to present, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012 and the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014. A movement to demonstrate against these and other deaths has grown since. Today, it is worldwide.

"Say Their Names!"
So they will not be forgotten. We have remained silent too long about police brutality and racism. We stand up now, and bear witness to the memories of these people, and their lives cut short, as we say their names. This will not return these people to life. But can keep their memories alive.

"Say Their Names!"
To stop further injustice, violence, brutality, murder. To promote civic engagement and social justice. Thank you for helping us in this endeavor.

John Barber
Holly Slocum
Greg Philbrook