For Soynika Edwards-Bush, the term “Black Lives Matter” is more than a phrase. It’s a movement and it’s gaining momentum. She also doesn’t understand why it’s viewed by some as divisive.
“It is simply saying ‘I am here, do you see me now?’” She said. “‘Do you hear me now?’”
Edwards-Bush and other artists will create a chalk mural that reads “Black Lives Matter,” on Sunday, June 21 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the Alabama Contemporary Arts Center building on Conti Street downtown. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks, according to a statement from the center.
“I’m doing it with some local artists,” she said. “We’re going to do the outline and have community members come and fill it in.”
The idea was sparked by actions in other cities where artists, and in some cases the cities themselves, painted large “Black Lives Matter” murals on streets. Edwards-Bush believes it will be a first phase, and would like to see a more permanent fixture follow.
The event will be held in conjunction with a virtual Juneteenth celebration at Cathedral Square and on Facebook, honoring black-owned businesses in the area, according to organizer Kimberly Pettway. Juneteenth is a celebration marking the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. The celebration will include a brief libation ceremony, Pettway said, in an attempt to follow social distancing guidelines.
Pettway confirmed that while the mural Sunday would be temporary, there have been discussions with Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office about a more permanent fixture near it.
“We are anticipating a second phase,” Pettway said. “We’re in conversations with the city for a permanent marker. What it will look like, I can’t tell you because I don’t know.”
In a statement on its website, the Alabama Contemporary Art Center said the project is dedicated to “bringing a sustained long-term show of support for the Black and Indigenous communities of Mobile and the surrounding areas.”
“In service of this goal, the committee is developing a long-term plan to renew the Black Lives Matter street mural and establish a precedent and support system for ongoing work towards racial equity in our city,” the center’s statement read. “The mural itself presents an opportunity to celebrate and support the work of local artists [and] coordinate activities designed to both honor the history of black people in Mobile and celebrate their current contributions to our vibrant city.”
In an email, Mobile Arts Council Executive Director Lucy Gafford said the group has served as a connection point on the project by helping to secure necessary permits and tackling other logistical issues.
“We’re excited to have a hand in this project,” she wrote. “An essential function of the arts, and humanity, is to learn from each other’s collective experiences. During these times of crisis, it is vitally important for us to exhibit compassion for one another.”
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