Black Lives Matter Mural: Worcester, MA

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Title

Black Lives Matter Mural: Worcester, MA

Catalog Entry

A group of local artists came together to create a “Black Lives Matter Mural” that was finished on July 15, 2020, at the intersection of MLK Jr. and Major Taylor boulevards. The mural is new and had to do with the social injustices and racial inequalities at the time. The letters spelling Black Lives Matter were painted on 15-by-26 foot blocks in the road and first sketched out, then painted with a base coat. Each letter has a significant meaning behind it and has become individual pieces of artwork. 500 people volunteered to help the artists paint the mural. This was a community-wide initiative that included people from all walks of life. So many people coming together shows the efforts being made to see change. Worcester City Councilor Sean M. Rose states, “This artistic expression, this mural, is a symbol of just that, of people coming together in solidarity to support anti-racism, and coming together as a community and recognizing that all lives matter, for sure, but Black lives are in danger right now,” (Barnes 2020).

The tragedy of George Floyd's death at the hands of the Minneapolis police and the resulting protests, including some in Worcester, inspired this mural and others around the world. It has prompted debates about racial injustice as well as police treatment of Black and African Americans. “For this project to happen here, and us to be able to document this happening here, this will hopefully create many more conversations about racism so that people start to understand what it is, where it came from, who started it,” stated Bill Gardner, who was part of the painting of the mural (Hanson 2020). When projects like these occur, people get a message across to outsiders and people who do not understand the racial issues that go on every single day. Since white people do not go through these problems on a daily basis, it is hard for them to understand where black people are coming from and how they do not feel safe walking freely just because of the color of their skin. Black people and people of color still fight for their basic rights which will never make sense because they deserve to have equal rights.

In an article written by John Tawa, Ruqian Ma, and Shinji Katsumoto they mention how, “In longitudinal studies with white students over the course of their 4 years in college, researchers have found that colorblind attitudes were related to less openness to diversity experiences in their first year (Neville et al. 2014) and decreasing empathy toward people of color over the course of their 4 years,” (Todd et al. 2011). This is quite interesting because some white people seem to have a problem when people specify that black lives matter. It’s safe to say that all lives matter, but all lives will not matter until black lives do. That is why the “Black Lives Matter” movement has become so popular because people support the phrase and want it to be known that black lives should be treated like every other life, which is equal. Sean M. Rose, the Worcester City Counselor made a great point stating “I think that it’s fair to say that we all recognize that all lives matter but Black lives are in danger in our country right now and I think what we’re trying to do here in the city of Worcester is to express solidarity within that and to basically say that we see you, we recognize you,” (Hanson 2020).

The Black Lives Matter mural provides another opportunity for residents to address the BLM movement's cultural significance, as well as to acknowledge all of the local artists who helped bring the feeling of support to the city streets and into our collective consciousness. The artists who participated in the painting of this mural all had significant meanings behind their designs. Nicole Coleman designed the “B” in the mural and was assisted by Narvicto DeJesus. “‘My piece in the mural is a message of choices inspired by the Spike Lee film 'Do The Right Thing' and hip-hop culture in the late '80s,’ Coleman said. Love has a higher vibration than hate, and it creates a space for openness, empathy and understanding, which is why centered in the middle of the 'B' is the statement ‘Choose Love Not Hate. ‘I would like to think that we were working on giving a symbol of love and understanding for our community to reflect upon and many people an image to smile back at,’ DeJesus said,” (Semon 2020). Sharinna Travieso designed the “L” in “BLACK” and it included the BLM fists, a peace sign, and a brown skin girl. Travieso states, “‘It’s always important for me to showcase the beauty of colored women through my art. Representation is everything, so I wanted every brown girl to see themselves reflected in my piece,’... Travieso said she hopes people can see that Worcester’s Black Lives Matter mural was something that was done by people of all colors,” (Semon 2020). The “A” in “BLACK” had abstract lines inside of it. Rushelle Frazier designed the “A” and was assisted by Amber Tortorelli. “‘I am proud of my community members, particularly two organizers who work tirelessly for the community,’ Tortorelli said, ‘Rushelle Frazier for the design of the letter A and the way she used the design to amplify marginalized voices, and Em Quiles for her organizing the creation of the mural and for caring about the voices of the artists within the community and giving them a platform for their voices to be heard,’” (Semon 2020). Coca Shahed designed the “C” in the mural and was assisted by Amora Andino and Laura Evonne Steinman. “‘The inspiration behind my piece is based on an ankara dashiki print,’ Shahed said. ‘The Afro pick symbolizes black pride and cultural identity. During the ‘70s, the Afro pick wasn’t just something to comb out one’s hair. It was worn in the Afro community for the culture, for the people. It spoke for blacks when no words needed to be said, ‘I’m black and I’m proud!’ I incorporated the peace sign in the pick to symbolize ‘No justice, no peace,’” (Semon 2020). Khalil Guzman-Jerry designed the “K” and was assisted by Edgardo Rodriguez. The “K” was very interesting because it is the American flag, but they replaced the white lines with black lines. “In my letter K specifically, I wanted to have my interpretation of what an African American flag would be,” Guzman-Jerry said, “I believe African Americans have played a huge role in American culture and development every step of the way. There is no official flag and every people need a symbol of representation. Although I am proud to live under the red, white and blue, it's also important for black people to have a flag distinct to us,” (Semon 2020). Each letter in the following words “LIVES MATTER” also had important meanings behind them. A few of the letters were dedicated to George Floyd and many of the other innocent lives that were taken because of police brutality and racial inequality.

Although there were so many people who supported the Black Lives Matter movement, there were people who reacted differently to the mural. On Major Taylor Boulevard there were black tire streaks that ran throughout the Black Lives Matter mural. “A car or truck appears to have caused damage to the paint by spinning its tires through the mural, leaving tracks of rubber. Similar tire tracks are on the road on nearby Foster Street,” (Barnes 2020). This simply shows that there are people who do not support that movement. Vandalism is something that occurs regularly, but in this specific scenario, it was an act of hate by people who did not tolerate the mural or the movement in general. In an article written by Zainab Madallal, she mentioned how “There have been reports across the country of acts of vandalism and harassment... North Carolina: In Durham on Wednesday, residents cleaned up graffiti that read, ‘Black Lives Don't Matter and Neither Does Your Votes,’ WNCN.com reports,” (Madallal 2016). Not everyone supports the movement and there will always be people who do not find the mistreatment towards people of color wrong in any way.

Bibliography

Tawa, John, Ruqian Ma, and Shinji Katsumoto. ""all Lives Matter": The Cost of Colorblind Racial Attitudes in Diverse Social Networks." Race and Social Problems, vol. 8, no. 2, 2016, pp. 196-208. ProQuest, https://fitchburgstate.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.fitchburgstate.idm.oclc.org/scholarly-journals/all-lives-matter-cost-colorblind-racial-attitudes/docview/1787037480/se-2?accountid=10896, doi:http://dx.doi.org.fitchburgstate.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s12552-016-9171-z.

Mudallal, Zainab. 'Black Lives Don't Matter' Graffiti among Hate Acts Around U.S. After Trump Win: Reports of Vandalism and Harassment Across the Country Appear to be Inspired by the Election. WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post, Washington, 2016. ProQuest, https://fitchburgstate.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.fitchburgstate.idm.oclc.org/blogs-podcasts-websites/black-lives-dont-matter-graffiti-among-hate-acts/docview/1837878605/se-2?accountid=10896.

mhanson@masslive.com, Melissa Hanson |. “As Black Lives Matter Mural Is Painted in Worcester, Community Hopes Art Will Help Spur Conversations.” Masslive, 15 July 2020, www.masslive.com/worcester/2020/07/as-black-lives-matter-mural-is-painted-in-worcester-community-hopes-art-will-help-spur-conversations-and-change.html.

Barnes, George. “Black Lives Matter Mural Painted on Worcester Street.” Worcester Telegram, Telegram & Gazette, 15 July 2020, www.telegram.com/story/news/2020/07/15/black-lives-matter-mural-painted-on-worcesterstreet/113738294/.

Craig S. Semon, Worcester Telegram. “'Beyond the Paint' Spotlights Artists behind Black Lives Matter Mural.” Telegram & Gazette, Worcester Telegram, 13 Aug. 2020, https://amp.telegram.com/amp/113861886

Barnes, George. “Black Lives Matter Mural in Worcester Damaged.” Worcester Telegram, Telegram & Gazette, 24 July 2020, www.telegram.com/story/news/2020/07/24/black-lives-matter-mural-in-worcester-damaged/113761386/.

 

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Alejandra Obregon, Student, Fitchburg State University

ALFA Mentor

Bill Ayadi

Photographer(s)

Joe Jacobs and Matt Wright

Citation

“Black Lives Matter Mural: Worcester, MA,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed September 27, 2022, https://culturalheritagethroughimage.omeka.net/items/show/175.

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