Black Lives Matter murals have been popping up across the country since the killing of George Floyd by police. In Hartford, a mural is tucked away in the city’s North End, with another in the works downtown. And in Stamford, the affirmation Black Lives Matter has been painted on a main street.
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Artists from Hartford and members of the community gathered outside the Swift Factory last week to work on portraits of Black civil rights leaders, entertainers, and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman killed by police in March.
Hartford artist and resident John Massey changed his mural plans to incorporate congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, who died July 17.
“To me, he was like baby Martin,” Massey said. “He was a teenager when Martin was already on the front lines sacrificing, and he learned that getting in good trouble from him. It’s only right.”
Massey also worked on adding finishing touches to a portion of the mural that declares Black is Beautiful and Black is Freedom, painted by Hartford artist Lindaluz Carrillo.
“It’s the message, it’s an everyday reminder,” Massey said. “If you live in this area and you Black, you’re gonna remember Black is freedom, Black is beautiful, Black lives matter. It’s a free therapy session for somebody who walks by here every time.”
Charish Shepherd worked on painting portraits of the late rappers Biggie Smalls and Nipsey Hussle.
“Art to me is a great way to relieve stress,” Shepherd said. “If you're having a bad day or something, my way is to listen to music that inspires me to keep going with life and art because art is the language that nobody can really describe.”
The mural is backed by the Connecticut Murals Project, which brings together artists and community members for public art and commercial murals. Gerina Fullwood wanted to make a statement within the community.
“I wanted people to look at it and say, ‘wow,’ and say, ‘this is a message that’s uplifting,’” Fullwood said. “We’re going to prosper, we’re going to overcome situations or circumstances that act as barriers … especially as Black people.”
Nearly 80 miles south in Stamford, 14 professional artists spent a whole day painting “Black Lives Matter” outside the Ferguson Library on Broad Street.
“The ‘C’ Is actually a woman with a big afro going around it. It’s awesome,” said Guy Fortt, the city’s NAACP president. “That is my favorite.”
Fortt was one of around 1,000 people who helped out the professional artists fill in the letters of Black Lives Matter with names like Eric Garner, people like Tupac and significant colors like the black, red and green of the Pan-African flag.
Art curator and Stamford resident Valerie Cooper was inspired by the artistic support for the Black Lives Matter movement she had seen pop up all over the country.
“When I saw LA on the map, Charlotte, D.C., Brooklyn -- Stamford had to be next,” said Cooper.
Cooper partnered with the NAACP and Ferguson Library to make it happen last weekend. The mural is right in front of the library doorstep for a specific reason.
“It sort of leads you to the place to learn more, to have to eliminate systematic racism and advocate for more social justice,” said Cooper.
Cooper says the Ferguson Library has committed to hosting events to talk about social injustice and racism in the community.
So far $10,000 has been raised on GoFundMe to cover the mural’s $20,000 cost.
A large-scale street mural similar to the Stamford mural with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is also in the works on Trinity Street in downtown Hartford, organized by Black Lives Matter 860 and Hartford resident Levey Kardulis, with support from the city of Hartford.
That mural was to be revealed on Sunday, July 26, in the afternoon.