Brendan Whitt


"Crows on the Line" Photo by Daivon Shepherd

‘When the Crows Come Home’ is a collection of my thoughts of the hood from a more humble and grown up Brendan.  The book opens with the line “There will always be blood on the leaves as long as there are crows in the trees". This was a play on the lyrics of Billie Holiday’s 1939 song titled ‘Strange Fruit‘.

The song was originally a poem written by a teacher by the name of Abel Meeropol. The poem was published in 1937 during the era of Jim Crowe when the lynching of African Americans was a regular occurrence especially in the southern states.

As I finished the short collection I struggled to find inspiration for a cover. Almost naturally I thought of finding a picture of an actual crow. I never liked that idea and decided to ask a child hood friend of mine to help me find an inspiration. Then my vision became realized.

My friend and photographer Daivon Shepherd had taken some photos earlier that morning. When he came by later that day he showed me several photos that were stunning to say the least. There was one particular photo of  a deer standing in front of the brick frame of an old and decayed three story apartment building located in an abandoned area of East Cleveland. The building was covered in vines and looked like the set of  an episode from AMC‘s ‘The Walking Dead’.

I was in awe as he continued to flip through all of his pictures until I saw the one of several pairs of sneakers thrown up on power line. The symbolism of the image was obvious to me. In urban America throwing a pair of sneakers onto a power line is a symbol of remembrance. The shoes usually belong to a deceased member of the community commonly caused by black on black violence.

The ideas are related to the sentiments that the effects of Jim Crowe have created the societal factors symbolized by the many themes explored in ‘When the Crows Come Home’.

Strange fruit in the trees as described by Abel Meeropol are black men or crows in my case. The blood on the leaves is from the crow. The tree symbolizes all of the societal traps the hood can ‘hang’ a crow by. As long as the crows are in the trees there will continue to be blood on the leaves. And in remembrance of the fallen crow his shoes are tossed onto a power line.