For City Councilmember I. Daneek Miller, painting a Black Lives Matter mural on the streets of downtown Jamaica is more than a symbol of the current political moment. It’s a chance to examine and celebrate the rich history of what has become one of the most affluent Black communities in the country, too.
“This visual art is also a part of expression of rage but also even the goodness of those experiences as well,” said Miller (D-Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, St. Albans, Queens Village, and Springfield Gardens) about the mural and the week of events celebrating it. “It is really an opportunity for us to get together as a community and review our history but also work on our future.”
The mural, which was painted last week on Jamaica Avenue between 150 and 153rd Streets in a launch event that even Mayor Bill de Blasio participated in, serves not only as a visual reminder of the struggles facing the Black community in Southeast Queens and in the country but also as a reminder of the hurdles they’ve overcome as a community and the greatness they’ve accomplished, Miller said.
“We have many many stories to tell that aren’t being told so for us to have this opportunity to have physically displayed that Black lives matter but then to tell the story that really supports why we’re there in a more meaningful way, it’s exciting to have the opportunity,” he said.
He pointed to the broader accomplishments nation-wide such as the Voting Rights Act and the end of Jim Crow in the South but also the musical and artistic talent that lived and flourished in Southeast Queens in Addisleigh Park, historically one of the only areas in New York City where wealthy Black people could own and build homes.
“You cannot be in Jamaica and not have exhibition of the arts and entertainment when you are the home of Count Basie, Lena Horne, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and all theses great folks,” he said.
He hopes the mural and Black Lives Matter Celebration Week, a week long series of events which culminates tonight at 6 p.m. with Millennial Day featuring live performances from young musicians and a platform for activists to share their messages, will help start conversations about that history and motivate and educate young people from the area.
“Sometimes young people fall victim to what they see in the media and they become gloom and doom,” he said. “And not recognize that this is a community of greatness and that they are responsible for carrying, continuing that legacy.”