Lukas Nel

On Saturday, about 40 New Haven residents gathered to show their solidarity with Black Lives Matter New Haven by painting a giant mural on Bassett Street. 

This is the first installation of eight similar murals planned across the city. The event included live music and poetry readings, an open mike and several vendors selling themed clothing. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., activists denounced police brutality across the United States and demanded justice for Black Americans.

“It is important for all of us to show we care about this issue and be a part of the public proclamation of that care,” Mayor Justin Elicker told the News on Saturday. “It has become more and more clear every day … that our system disadvantages Black and brown people.”

Elicker pointed to the disparity in the impact of COVID-19 on Black communities and police brutality against Black Americans as evidence of these systemic problems. According to Elicker, attending the mural painting on Saturday was a way of demonstrating support for the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraging change in the Elm City.  

Local artist Kwadwo Adae was hired by the city to sketch the outline of the large mural in the Newhallville area, a process that took him three full days to complete given the size of the piece. Adae has painted 17 murals during his career. While four of them were completed in New Haven, some of his other works can be found on the streets of Ecuador and Guatemala.

Adae told the News he had a personal stake in creating the mural, saying that it was a way for the community to engage creatively with activists.

“The feeling when you grow up as a Black man in this country is that you are not wanted, you’re not welcome and you watch people treat you like you actually don’t matter,” Adae said. “This [event] is something that helps to reinforce the fact that we are all human.”

New Haven’s mural is part of a broader effort by Black Lives Matter chapters across the nation to dedicate public spaces to the movement. Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May, murals have accompanied protests against police brutality throughout the U.S. Bold, yellow letters have been painted across streets in New York City, Los Angeles and outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

Adriane Jefferson, the New Haven Director of Cultural Affairs and an organizer for the event, said that the mural required three months of preparation since they needed to obtain permits to close down Bassett Street so that volunteers could paint safely.

Jefferson also highlighted that the event’s goal was to bring the New Haven community together.

“The purpose of the event is Black joy,” Jefferson said. “Black joy matters.”

Shelley Quiala, a local resident and attendee, told the News that the mural painting had helped garner support for the Black Lives Matter movement in New Haven.

Black Lives Matter New Haven, in conjunction with the city, is planning to paint another mural on Temple Street on Oct. 3.

Lukas Nel | lukas.nel@yale.edu