BLM Mural Brings Bed-Stuy Celebration of HBCUs

The event at the Black Lives Mural in Bed-Stuy featured a number of local artists. Photo by Ariama C. Long

There were a plethora of exciting cultural celebrations on the Black Lives Matter blacktop mural on Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant this past Saturday. 

Executive Director for the Coalition of Community Charter Schools Michael Catlyn and The Bedford-Stuyvesant Mural Collective, with support from electeds like Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-Bedford Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) and the surrounding arts community, bolstered Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as an integral thread within the Black community. 

From morning to night, the #ActivatetheMural! events encouraged people to come out and rep their college or fraternity/sorority during a slew of activities that included health and wellness activities, a marching band showcase, a jazz trio, an evening DJ set, and the mural’s first wedding.

Bed Stuy Collective member Monique Antoine, worked with Makeita Wilson-Thompson and Shancton Thompson to make their wedding ceremony a special, magical day.  

“The wedding was an opportunity to reinforce the spirit of ‘Black Love and Family’ in a time when people might be feeling defeated and disregarded in the wake of COVID, economic uncertainty, and increased violence across the City,” said Antoine. “Many people have been spending days, weeks, and months at home with minimal contact outside of their immediate families. The Mural activities are a way for all residents to engage outside of the home in a socially distanced atmosphere while improving their overall mental and physical health through mediation, yoga, aerobics, skating and other fun activities.”

Makeita Wilson-Thompson and Shancton Thompson tied the knot on Saturday on the BLM mural. Photo by Ariama C. Long

Cornegy similarly said that the mural and community events have both helped raise awareness and engaged people, creating an uptick in foot traffic and local business. 

“There are so many layers of meaning to Black Lives Matter. To be sure, there are the layers around upholding civil and human rights and around police accountability. The wedding Saturday vividly showed there is meaning for celebrating the positive breadth of experience, including Black unity and love. It is really great to see our community embracing this mural and making it a part of life in our neighborhood,” said Cornegy.

HBCUs, predominantly black institutions, and minority-serving institutions make tremendous contributions to the lives of students, alumni, and our communities, said Cornegy about the theme of Saturday’s general events. 

“As an Omega Psi Phi brother, I personally know about the volunteerism, lectures, workshops, town halls, and other community events that Divine Nine [National Pan-Hellenic Council] chapters here in Brooklyn work diligently to support. More broadly, all these institutions empower youth to see themselves in leadership roles in their careers and in our communities,” said Cornegy.

Gloria Braxton, a native Bed-Stuy watercolor artist at the mural event. Photo by Ariama C. Long

Gloria Braxton, a native Bed-stuy watercolor artist at the mural event, was inspired by the death of her grandmother to start painting 11 years ago. Her painting, “College Girl,” is an African cubist expression of Black students on campus. 

“I feel like during the pandemic, along with the elderly, they are the most important demographic right now. They’re the protesters, they’re the leaders. They are still studying, they are still working on the future during a pandemic, social injustices that are happening. There’s a lot of change happening and they’re still expected to be perfect in a sense,” said Braxton about her work. 

“I think that we are owning being socially conscious of what’s happening in our community,” said Braxton about the street mural event.

Democratic Nominee for New York State’s Senate in District 25 Jabari Brisport lamented that he’d missed the marching band events on the blacktop. He said that communities were still reeling from gun violence, like the shooting death of 1-year-old Davell Gardner Jr., and events that empower positivity in the community were increasingly important.

“Giving our youth a chance to explore their minds while supporting them is so incredibly empowering,” said Brisport, “We’ve got to keep going. It feels like really in the spirit of Black Lives Matter this is the positive aspect.”