(PHOTOS) Community volunteers paint a Black Lives Matter mural on North McDonough Street – Decaturish
Decatur, Georgia — Community volunteers, organizers and artists showed up in downtown Decatur on Saturday to paint a mural along North McDonough Street proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.”
Despite an initial forecast of rain, the sun shone on the volunteers and artists of all ages who helped fill in the stencil designs.
The mural was approved by the City Commission in early August, and Commissioner Lesa Mayer played an important role in organizing the project.
Three black artists—Sharanda Wilburn, George F. Baker III, and Petie Parker—were responsible for designing the mural, with each artist creating a concept for a word in the phrase.
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The location was chosen because it passes the Decatur High School campus and is a major downtown street. The Decatur High School community has been rocked by several racist incidents this year, and organizers felt the mural would create a more accepting environment for students who will eventually return to the school building. (Like most other public schools in metro Atlanta, Decatur High is closed and students are learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Commissioner Lesa Mayer said she felt the project was going “better than expected”.
“We had some concerns about the weather, so luckily it’s a nice sunny day and we can send the volunteers out to actively paint,” she said. “It was a request from the community, and the community is here doing the painting. The artists have been amazing, they engage community members and volunteers, so it’s a great development experience community with an extremely important message behind it.
Sharanda Wilburn created her concept art for the word “Black” with each letter of the word hinting at a life lost to police brutality or racism. The design includes patterns instead of faces: Skittles in reference to Trayvon Martin, a BART transit pass for Oscar Grant, a stethoscope representing Breonna Taylor’s work as a paramedic.
Wilburn said it was his first work exhibited at Decatur. She also painted murals in Atlanta. “I am very honored to do this. I just have different elements inside each letter from people who lost their lives.
Wilburn was pleasantly surprised that the project was completed faster than expected, with the help of volunteers.
George F. Baker’s design for the word “lives” is a vibrant crowd of faces in a blue, pink and yellow color palette.
“I wanted to illustrate the variety of people, colors and creeds you would see all over Atlanta,” Baker said. “I wanted them all to be together, just to be together and having fun, you know, smiling. In times like these, we need a lot of levity, but we also need a lot of truth.
This is Baker’s first project in Decatur, but his work is also displayed on the North Side of the Atlanta Beltline, in Cabbagetown and Downtown Atlanta. He recently did a mural for the Slutty Vegan restaurant in Atlanta.
Petie Parker was busy offering his leftover paint to a fellow artist who had stopped by to see the work being done on the mural. He introduced himself as “Petie Parker, like Spiderman”.
Parker’s design for the word “matter” features a ballot box and the word “vote” repeated in the background.
“For any change to happen, I think [voting] that’s where it really starts,” Parker said. “I don’t think the black community emphasizes voting, and I think at a young age it needs to be introduced, and the kids here are painting the word ‘vote’.”
Parker also painted a mural on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta in tribute to Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor.
The artists first painted the stencil in the middle of the night – Parker said he had only slept for a few hours.
Parker says he uses the same signature color palette in all of his mural work. “It just jumps.”
Fonta High, an organizer for the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, said she believes the mural is a continuation of the work that brought down the Confederate monument in Decatur on the eve of June 19 . “We now put symbols and images that reflect the inclusiveness of the city of Decatur and affirm the black community.”
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Cameran Botts, a volunteer from Ellenwood, said the project was a good opportunity for her to get out of the house as a freelancer. “I’m a fashion designer, so I’m always on the lookout for any creative opportunity. It’s my passion, it’s my love.
Botts admired Wilburn’s work on Wendy’s logo and “I Can’t Breathe” motto. “That one I stopped dead in my tracks. The ‘I Can’t Breathe’ movement is so strong and so powerful, and I used to live across the street from this Wendy’s. Having real tangible things inside the mural that resonate with me is simply breathtaking.
“We were thrilled to help paint the mural today,” said volunteer Mijha Godfrey, who was there with her daughter Sophia. “We live here and drive on this street all the time.”
“When I saw [the mural]it really gave me chills on this hot day,” added Godfrey.
Grade 4 student Mathilda LaFond said she came to volunteer with her family because she believed black lives mattered and thought it would be fun to help paint the mural.
“You will go to this high school one day and you will walk past your art every day,” Mathilda said.
“It’s a great opportunity to do a community activity that shows the importance of social justice…it’s the least we can do and I think it’s a great project to show how much Decatur cares,” said Reggie, Mathilda’s father.
Here are additional photos from Saturday’s event:
Here is a drone video of the mural being painted posted on Facebook:
Here’s another drone video from today’s event posted on YouTube:
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