Black Lives Matter hasn’t only taken to the streets, it’s a loud call to action that’s literally decorating city streets, from in front of the White House to the dazzling new street mural in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy (D-Bedford Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) joined with Billie Holiday Theatre Executive Artistic Director Dr. Indira Etwaroo; renowned artists Dawud West, Cey Adams, Hollis King; and 17 other Brooklyn-based visual artists, to paint and unveil the giant “Black Lives Matter” mural on Fulton Street, between Marcy and Brooklyn Avenues, this past weekend.
“We have had the wind at our backs for this,” said Dr. Etwaroo, about how quick the permit process with the Department of Transportation (DOT) arts program was for the mural. “This is an act of love for Black people across the globe, this is our testimony because we have for 400 years watched senseless murders of Black people from every era in this country.”
Community members, electeds, celebrities, and even civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton and director Spike Lee made it to the ceremonies on Saturday.
Sharpton, who has had a decades-long fight against injustices, said, “It is a better climate than I’ve seen. There’s more people out, there’s consistency, and I just want to see it continue until we get things done. Seeing the laws change in the state was only the beginning, now we got to make sure they enforce them. Every generation must do its thing, I think this generation is doing it in a very vibrant and productive way, but we’ve got to stick to it until we get it all.”
With music blasting in the background and a bright sun blazing overhead, the community laid down the first brushstrokes of bold, yellow paint, a unifying color originally used in the George Floyd public art piece in Washington D.C. and those around the country. Benjamin Moore, founded in 1883 in Brooklyn, supported the program by donating all of the paint for the installation.
“Bedford-Stuyvesant has a long tradition and history of being a part of Black empowerment movements of supporting and realizing we need to honor the work that Black people do in our community,” said Assemblymember and Candidate for Senate District 25 Tremaine Wright (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights). She along with Community Board 3 District Manager Henry Butler, and Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park) also helped paint the mural.
After the stencils and first letter were finished, artists came together to complete the over 560-foot mural overnight and unveiled the sprawling artwork on Sunday morning. Award-winning Brooklyn poet Carl Hancock Rux and vocalist Marcelle Lashley performed in the center of the sectioned off-street while the paint was still drying.
“It’s significant that we are the first in New York State to have done this when we are the last bastion of Black home-ownership, Black small business, Black political power, and Black ecumenical power,” said Cornegy. “Although it’s symbolic, it’s a painting, we look forward to help rejuvenate and energize people who have been out here demonstrating and demanding rights. We needed a boost.”