By Joe Johnson
As he has done several times before, Athens artist Ronnie Bernard Hull III today will be creating a portrait of a murder victim in a way that the portrait will find its way into the hands of the victim’s family.
Beginning at 6 p.m. today, May 18, Hull will begin drawing the likeness of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old black man who was shot to death on Feb. 23 by two white men as he jogged in a Glynn County neighborhood.
It is believed that Arbery was racially profiled after the neighborhood had experienced some thefts. Many have called his death a lynching.
The drawing-in-progress can be viewed via Facebook Live, on Hull’s Facebook page: Ron Da Don.
“I wanted to do this special live capturing the life and essence of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery to bring a sense of comfort to his family and awareness to our community," Hull said. “The killing has to stop.”
Hull said when he saw the video of Arbery being killed he was devastated.
“From the moment I saw the shooting to the moment I saw his injured body stumble and collapse to the ground was absolutely devastating.”
Hull is owner of Ronnie B Art & Designs and is a makeup artist who operates Blessed by the Brushes.
Ronnie Bernard Hull III
He has created all his victim drawings as Facebook Live events, the first coming after the 2017 suspicious death of 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins, whose body was found in the locked freezer of a suburban Chicago hotel where she attended a party.
“I went live on Facebook drawing her and the views started to increase by the minute,” Hull recalled. The victim’s cousin found out about what Hull had done, and the artist was able to get the portrait of Jenkins to her family through the cousin.
Hull said he has been unable to get in touch with Arbery’s family, and hopes the portrait he creates will make its way to them in the same way the portrait of Jenkins got to her family, by having his Facebook Live event widely viewed.
“My mission is to shed light on a life that was taken prematurely,” Hull said. “Yes, we should acknowledge what has happened, but let's not forget that this was also someone’s son, a brother, a friend, and most of all a human.
“This is the time for uplifting and unity amongst all people.” he said. “I hope to be a beacon of light for anyone during their time of grief to let them know that there is always someone around who cares and that art is one of the most special ways to remember their loved one.”
The most recent of Hull’s victim drawings was that of Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney, a 3-year-old girl who was abducted on Oct. 2 from an outdoor birthday party in Birmingham, Ala. and before her body was found in a dumpster 10 days later, she had been beaten, raped and suffocated.
“The story hit me in a very sensitive place because the level of evil that caused this tragedy is just so mind-boggling that I strongly felt obligated to keep Cupcake’s memory alive, so once again I took to Facebook,” Hull said.
In a departure from creating victim portraits, Hull last year created a mural on the side of Studio 74 Styling Shop on Epps Bridge Road to commemorate his good friend Auriel “Thumpa” Callaway, who was shot to death in July outside of her home at Clarke Gardens apartments.