An influx of incredible Black Lives Matter murals across the city
Saturday, September 5th saw Kansas Citians painting six different Black Lives Matter murals on six different Kansas City streets.
Six local artists who all grew up in KC put their own vision of Black Lives Matter on the streets with the help of a diverse collection of locals. Families came wearing masks, food trucks showed up, music played and the Labor Day weekend started with a little bit of laughter and love.
Vivian Bluett grew up on 39th and Elmwood. She describes her mural in Brookside by saying, “I really wanted to make sure I stuck with the red, black, and green African Liberation colors which is why a majority of this mural is red, black and green. I wanted to make sure that we had this mural facing this elementary school so the kids in this school can look out the windows and play on this playground and see this mural and get the message that Black Lives Matter. I also just wanted to make it fun for the kids to look at but also give them a message. So in some of these letters, there are children. So hopefully the kids will see themselves and identify with themselves in this message. We also have some names of some victims of police brutality that are going down on the mural as well. So it was important for me to make sure to recognize those people and get them on the mural too.”
Warren Harvey’s mural is on 63rd and Troost. He grew up in south Kansas City but now lives in midtown. His goal is to send positive vibes and love. A reminder that black lives matter but it’s really just good energy and beautiful colors. It’s just energy that comes with it and I want people to experience that when they come on this road. When they experience this mural that says black lives matter…I want people to experience that good energy.”
Michael Toombs created the 31st & Troost mural. He lives on the West Side but grew up on 39th & Wabash and 31st & Paseo also Independence Avenue, 12th & Woodland and 27th & Prospect. “We moved around a lot”, he says with a wry smile. When asked about his theme, he told me “because the Black Lives Matter Mural Project was spawned as a result of the things that were happening in various cities and a lot of anger and frustration was associated with it. We’ve had a chance to catch some of the outer ripples which I think is a healing process. So what I’m trying to do is to present WHY black lives matter. So basically I put John Lewis in it, I put Maya Angelou in it, the Red Tails with the Tuskegee Airmen in it. I put the mayors: Cleaver, James and Lucas in it. I also put the women who came up the mathematical formula that got the astronauts into space. I also put Louie Armstrong as the father of jazz in it. I tried to put things in it that have affected the trajectory of American culture. Things that black people have contributed so they will understand that’s why black lives matter.”
Harold Smith grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. His work on Briarcliff Parkway incorporates “bright vivid colors reflecting light and diversity. Black lives matter but they’re also rich in addition to… mattering. Black lives are rich, vibrant and they contribute so much to America.”
Avrion Jackson has lived all her life off 89th & Troost, “so I know that division line as far as how black lives matter.” She spoke to me at the site of her mural on 10th and Baltimore. “My overall goal was to have an afro-centric vibe while creating the design so I have the textiles of the mud cloth as well as the colors that are part of the culture. You have your blacks, your greens, red and yellow. I also wanted to incorporate things that are with the community so you have your afro pic, your black woman with the crown, and an afro.”
18th & Vine is the birthplace of Kansas City Jazz and Adrianne Clayton is well aware of that legacy. She was raised 35th and Mercington attending Paseo High School. She designed her mural to “include the culture of the area which was the hub for the African American people. Our businesses, our music, our food. I wanted to put some of that into the image while still protecting the integrity of the message of Black Lives Matter. I included piano keys. The 100 you see in those letters is the centennial logo for The Urban League. I also have the KC logo used for the Monarchs. It’s about unity, black pride. I tried to keep it simple and clean.
These murals will not last forever. Time, vandalism and street repairs will eventually make these murals only a memory…but what a memory. For a brief moment, we as a city proved that we can move past the hate and the division to create good memories and make a statement.