A massive ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ mural painted on the street leading to the White House captured the world’s attention last week — an eye-opening visual that, remarkably, is large enough to show up on satellite images.
It also captured the imagination of artists, community activists and local officials across the nation seeking ways to express themselves in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, a group of residents painted ‘End Racism Now’ in large, bright yellow letters on Sunday in front of the Contemporary Art Museum.
Charman Driver, a community activist and museum board member who led the effort, told USA TODAY on Monday that she was inspired by the street art in Washington. She originally wanted to paint the mural in front of the state capitol to demand the removal of Confederate monuments near the building.
“This ongoing glorification of the Confederacy, especially here in the south, through memorials on public property, just has to end,” Driver said.
Protesters in several cities across the country have demanded state and local officials to remove Confederate memorials following Floyd’s death on Memorial Day. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam last week announced that the statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond and four others would be removed “as soon as possible.”
A similar street display showed up Friday in California’s capital city of Sacramento, where artist Demetris “BAMR” Washington led volunteers in painting ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ in black letters in front of the capitol building. The project was commissioned by the nonprofit creative group The Atrium and council member Steve Hansen, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“Just trying to get this message out there in a very positive way,” Washington told the Bee. “A lot of people out here for the cause, everybody coming together for one thing and that’s unity.”
About an hour away in Oakland, a group of artists and activists on Sunday painted #BLACKLIVESMATTER in yellow letters across three city blocks.
People are using art to express their feelings, Driver said.
“To me, that’s what exactly what contemporary art is. We are speaking to what’s happening with the times right now and it’s a beautiful thing,” said Driver.
Some, however, say the murals aren’t enough to bring about effective change. The Black Lives Matter D.C. chapter called it a “performative distraction from real policy changes.” On Saturday, activists added an equal sign with ‘Defund the Police’ next to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural near the White House, the DCist reported.
“While we appreciate the small gestures of the Black Lives Matter Plaza, painting the streets, that doesn’t mean anything for substantive change and accountability,” demonstrator Johnnie Williams told the DCist.
Contributing: Nicholas Wu, Ryan W. Miller, Ledyard King and Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY