BLACK LIVES MATTER Mural – Letter By Letter, Artist By Artist
On June 9, 2020 a team of 22 mural artists and countless helpers painted a universal truth on the 200 block of S. Tryon Street: BLACK LIVES MATTER.
The group was led by Brand the Moth & BLKMRKTCLT in partnership with Charlotte Is Creative and the City of Charlotte to respond in bold colors to the cries for equity and social justice sounding from every corner of the globe. It was created by a coalition of creatives that came together quickly to conceive of and execute this project in less than four days from start to finish.
Now that their work is written on the very heart of Uptown Charlotte, it’s time to ask bigger questions: Where do we go from here? What needs to change to keep the momentum? How do we remain focused on true, permanent change?
Give to the Artists Who Have Given to Charlotte
It’s also time to recognize the power and importance of the Queen City creative community in challenging our city to move forward and to give voice not only to our dreams, but to the injustices at work in our society. These creatives are a gift to Charlotte.
Since the installation of the Black Lives Matter street mural on June 9, all parties involved have gotten questions about which artists were involved, the meanings behind their art and (most importantly) how to show love and appreciation to them. Here’s how:
- Follow them
- Share them
- Tip them
- Buy their art
- Hire them pay them fairly
- Provide access to affordable workspace
- Advocate for them
If their work this week moved you, use the information below to give them a digital tip. They are vital members of our business community. They help define our city’s quality of life. They speak the intimate stories of our city into existence for all to see.
Black Lives Matter Street Mural: Letter By Letter
Unless otherwise noted, photos below used courtesy of John Merrick Media.
B – Dammit Wesley
Dammit, Wesley on the meaning behind the design:
“I used Storm from the X-Men as a motif to highlight the plight of black people in America. Despite being powerful, worthy of praise, and selflessly sacrificing all we have for the sake of saving humanity we continue to experience racism & discrimination. The quote at the top reads ‘Do I not matter? Will I ever? Why won’t you love me America?’”
L – Dakotah Aiyanna
Dakotah Aiyanna on the meaning behind her design:
“I painted a flower person because I believe all black people are wildflowers because of our adaptability to regrow wherever the world tries to place or throw us. My heart is beyond full to be apart of something with such a great meaning.”
A – Zacc McLean & Ty Adams (Assist: Naji Al-Ali)
Zacc McLean on the meaning behind his design:
C – Abel Jackson
Abel Jackson on the meaning behind the design:
“My letter is C. Inside, I use a silhouette of Tommie Smith who was one of the athletes during the ’68 Olympics who raised his fist on behalf of the fight for human rights. What that did in protest to conditions in America led to great criticism because at that time America and the world did not want to address inequality. They wanted to sweep it under the rug and ignore it.
Now, the fight for equality can’t be ignored. I placed the black fist in the sky surrounded by the sun because you can’t ignore this revolution any more than you can ignore the sun in the sky. BLM is in your face and we will not give up until there is lasting change. The red represents blood, sweat, and tears.”
K – Garrison Gist
Garrison Gist on why he chose Deadpool and the easter egg meaning behind the design:
“I chose Deadpool as a metaphor for our generation right now with this movement. If you know anything about Deadpool, you know he’s rebellious, outspoken, radical. I feel like that’s our generation right now with this movement.
We’re using our voices. We’re being outspoken. We’re being radical. We’re being rebellious. We’re challenging everything that we know as the norm to make sure we get the changes that we want to see. I feel like that’s what Deadpool is. He literally goes against everything we’ve ever thought about superheroes. He challenges all of those norms. And, that’s what our generation is doing right now by letting our voices be heard.
The ‘Easter Egg’ reason behind the mural design is that in the comics Deadpool is considered to be bisexual or pansexual. It’s Pride Month and personally I have a lot of friends and some family members that are a part of the LGBTQ community. So, I felt alongside the first reason I chose to use Deadpool that this would be a cool way to honor them and let them know that they are just as much a part of the movement.
It was beautiful to see local artists come together to put something together like this. I’ve never seen anything like this. I love the fact that it will shine a lot of light on our city’s art scene. I feel like we are overlooked. The bigger meaning for me is being able to add my small contribution to the overall mural and our city’s contribution to the overall Black Lives Matter movement.”
L – Owl & Arko
Joint statement from Owl and Arko on the inspiration behind their design:
“Given the letter L, we took the opportunity to speak up about the Afro Latinx communities in America and how they are also impacted by the injustices of this country. We are Latinx and we believe that as immigrants we need to support the movement because until Black Lives Matter…no immigrant, refugee or Native American will ever matter here. Being Black is a death sentence in this country and it needs to stop now.”
I – Kyle Mosher (Assist: Zachery Peele)
Zachery Peele on helping with the project:
“Kyle [Mosher] came up with the concept behind the letter, I just wanted to be a part of the project and use my talents with other Charlotte creatives to make something happen. As soon as he told me about the idea the night before, I knew I had to be a part of it.
It was just a beautiful thing to see everyone come together and show up to bring attention to an issue we feel very strongly about. Even people who weren’t painting were doing everything they possibly could to make sure we got the message out there and were taken care of. I’m incredibly thankful to be a part of it.”
V – Franklin Kernes (Assist: Lo’Vonia Parks)
Lo’Vonia Parks on working with Franklin on the mural:
“I assisted the artist Franklin Kernes on his letter V. He and I have worked together through Brand the Moth’s META Mural Residency program last year. I saw what Sam Guzzie and Dammit Wesley posted on IG and felt compelled to help ANY way I could. I came with snacks and Gatorade in my backpack and grabbed a brush.
Franklin can probably best describe the V. To me, what it meant was change for the future. The future are our children and when I saw his little girl cheer him on, the message was clear. Change happens NOW for our FUTURE.
I posted on my Facebook page that you can’t spell ‘heart’ without ‘art’ … and yesterday that showed. I saw and participated with people who asked about what our letter’s message was. I heard from people who were honest and open about learning more about BIPOC’s injustices and they listened.
Art is an experience and not just a novelty. The power of art lets people gather safely together to become aware of the hatred and racism within our country. The art created a safe space to express the truth.”
E – Kiana Mui
Kiana on the inspiration behind her design:
“My letter was E in LIVES. The inspiration found in all of my art pieces goes back to Anime. Anime has always been a part of my life and will continue to help inspire me to create more wonderful works of art. Another inspiration of mine during this project was to set an example for the BLM movement as well as opening the eyes of those who continue to say All Lives Matter and understand how insensitive it to use it against the BLM movement. I will continue to use my art to inspire others in all forms.”
S – Marcus Kiser & Jason Woodberry
Marcus Kiser on the meaning behind the design:
“I wanted a clean propaganda-style design. I used red black and white for a revolutionary style color scheme and the design includes an indigenous face of a black kid hidden in the image, with only highlights of the face being visible.”
Jason Woodberry on the meaning behind the design:
“Red and black is a color combination often used in reference to protest and communist propaganda. The child’s face is in reference to what all this is for. Marcus and I are not fighting systemic racism for ourselves. We’re trying to set the stage for the next generation of children of color so they can exist without repressed emotions and fear.”
M – Georgie Nakima
EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t have a statement from Georgie, but we DO have this amazing video from Charlotte Star Room where Georgie speaks about her art.
A – Matthew Clayburn
Matthew Clayburn on the meaning behind the design and the project as a whole:
“The meaning behind my A is genuine connection and support. Voices are heard louder when unified rather than separated. It’s important for us to move together forward against hatred and violence, instead of repeating the cycle. I want to make sure people know they don’t stand alone in how they feel. This mural shows that Charlotte is ready for change. And I’m looking forward to the city being on the forefront.”
T – Frankie Zombie
Frankie on how his creative journey inspired his design style for his piece of the mural:
“My letter was inspired by a pop-art aesthetic that has become one of my signature styles. The origins of the style come from my childhood. As a kid growing up in the Bronx, I’d spend hours at a time in my room just daydreaming looking out the window and at the time I had a love for the color pallets in the cartoon ‘The Jetsons.’
I’d watch the cartoon all of the time just on strength of the crazy color pop in the show, then I started to get a bit curious. I noticed that in the cartoon you didn’t see much diversity in skin tones so, being a curious child, I’d ask myself why the cartoon was lacking people of color.
What I then started to do was go back and start daydreaming in my room of the cartoon. But, only this time, I’d daydream and make up characters to fit the scenes. I’d create black people, Spanish people, Native Americans, Arab culture, etc., simply because these were the people I would see in my neighborhood on a regular basis and because I figured the cartoon would be way more fly with several cultures being included.
Fast-forward to my adult art career. I started remembering those daydreams and had the itch to make it come to life, but instead of painting black characters, I chose to BE the black character that changed the narrative of the cartoon. I started painting and creating my own pallets that were inspired by the cartoon. Now each piece I create brings people together for conversations and understanding of each other’s culture for a bigger purpose of love.
The overall BLM Mural project that we created is now a part of history and it was an honor being amongst such beautiful cultured people all coming together for one reason only. That reason was to continue building awareness and truth that black people have been fighting injustice and inequalities in America for hundreds of years and it must and will come to an end. Spending an 8-hour day in the sun with my brothers and sisters to use our voices through our art has been nothing short of a blessing for me.”
T – CHD:WCK!
CHD:WCK! on the meaning behind his design:
“For me ‘There Is No Change Without Disruption’ speaks to the fact that problems and problematic behaviors usually come from a problematic way of thinking about things. You’re not going to be able to build better habits or solve problems with old problematic thinking. You have to disrupt your own habits and views in order to change.
For me, BLM is a specific community letting their voices be heard about the injustices they face. I think that if people are hearing this cry and they take action, it will naturally lead to them taking note of other marginalized communities and how we can work towards social and economic equality.”
E – John Hairston Jr.
John Hairston Jr. on the meaning behind his design and the importance of the mural:
“The city of Charlotte is a mosaic. There’s definitely not one all-encompassing aesthetic that comes for the city of Charlotte. The BLM mural was the celebration of the fallen and a love letter to the city. It’s a frightening time period and we as creatives have absorbed the tensions in our surroundings and in the overall climate of the country and created something impactful with the intention to unify and enlighten those in our city.
For my letter E, I pointed my focus on the future generation. I have no little ones as of yet, but I think the innocence of my childhood when addressing prejudice, hatred, racism, classism, all Isms and I think about how I lived without fear. The police were our friends and McGruff the Crime Dog was looking out for our best interests. There was brutality in the civil rights movement, but that was in the day and age that racism existed. ‘Dr. King abolished that, right?!’
It wasn’t until the Rodney King beating that I realized that police brutality, racism, social injustices still existed. With the introduction of the camera phone, we were able to document these things while they were happening and they’d become so commonplace that they’d happen at least 4-5 times every summer and we’d have a hashtag and we’d march and protest and the names would eventually be forgotten until the next piece of awful news arrived.
Saying all this, the narrative for the image I constructed was more for the child that sees these things currently happening. I mourn for their loss of innocence and their understanding of inheriting a world that they didn’t make and to encourage them to continue on and learn from the mistakes that we’ve made.
The hardest pill for me to swallow was that I thought as a society that we would have made more progress than this. It’s a slow process, but there’s motion in a brighter direction. So, I would encourage them to continue on and learn from our mistakes.”
R – Dari Calamari
Dari Calamari on the meaning behind her abstract design:
“As an abstract artist, my work is always open for interpretation. My aim is to captivate the eyes with color and lines, movement and repetition, causing the viewer to feel, reflect and make sense of whatever it is they see.
Whether it brings out memories of fire, warmth, the sun or butterfly wings or something else entirely, all are valid as each person has their personal view on what my work looks like to them, I follow my intuitive flow and authentic expression and allow it translate into my work.
My letter is the ending of an impactful mural that makes a profound statement and symbolizes the setting of one phase leading into the emergence of another. A collective shift into a new day where true compassion and love for each other radiate from our core.”
Support the Organizers
With support from the City of Charlotte and Charlotte Is Creative (publishers of The Biscuit), the Black Lives Matter street mural was conceived, managed and executed in less four days. The mural painting process took around 9 hours from the initial chalking to the final brush stroke. This was a three-month project executed in 96 hours. The task of managing the artists above fell largely to two organizations: Brand the Moth and BLKMRKTCLT.
In addition to the artists who painted, please support them with your follows, your shares and your financial contributions so they are here to answer the call on the next project … and the hundreds of projects and community engagements to follow.
Please Tip These Organizations:
Brand the Moth: $BrandTheMoth
If you would like to make a donation to Charlotte Is Creative, we’d ask that you do so to our HUG Micro-Grant program to help seed and nudge forward creative ideas across many disciplines in Queen City.
Special Thanks To
Support for this event was also provided by
- Charlotte Center City Partners
- Center City Ambassadors
- Crescent Communities
- Charlotte Community ToolBank
- Brixx Pizza
- Hex Coffee
- Community Matters Cafe