Lukas Nel, Contributing Photographer
On Saturday, nearly 300 New Haven residents gathered in Downtown New Haven throughout the day for a Black Lives Matter mural installation.
BLM New Haven, in conjunction with the city, painted a BLM mural on the block of Temple Street that runs through the Green this past Saturday. Several dozen community members helped paint the mural, which consisted of the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ in large, bold, yellow lettering, onto the street. It is the second art installation in a planned series of murals set to go up around the Elm City. Saturday’s event included music, Black-owned business vendors, activities and speeches from several BLM New Haven organizers.
“We’re hoping to show the diversity in Blackness with the way the murals come to fruition,” Ala Ochumare, lead organizer for BLM New Haven, told the News.
Ochumare said BLM New Haven fundraised for the mural installation and received financial support from the city’s Arts, Culture, & Tourism division. Since the first mural installation, BLM New Haven has worked to improve the quality of its art installations. Ochumare told the News that the organization found paint that is more durable on city streets and has increased its fundraising efforts for mural projects for Black-owned businesses.
Marsh John, one of the lead painters for the Temple Street mural, told the News she was excited to contribute her artistic understanding to movement. John said she found her work to be her own form of activism, one that does not involve “getting behind the bullhorn” but is equally essential.
John has painted for about four years while working as a tattoo artist. She said she sees the mural as a “form of history” that will provoke historical reflection on the current state of the nation. She said that this project will allow those looking back on this point in American history to consider that “it must’ve been a really crazy time that they had to actually paint on the ground that Black Lives Matter.”
Numerous New Haven residents and children picked up a brush and painted the pavement, helping John and the two other lead artists carry out the large-scale project. Other community members, like Black New Haven resident Tiana Griffin, showed up to the event in solidarity and support.
Griffin said she believes the mural’s central location and bright colors are a way to captivate the attention of fellow New Haveners and press them to consider the realities of police brutality that the BLM movement struggles against.
“Art helps to express more than words can sometimes,” Griffin told the News in an interview.
Sarah Fritchey, a community member who manned BLM New Haven’s booth, led passerbys through various activities, including one that asked New Haven residents to imagine a new Wooster Square for the city that best represented their communities. Fritchey said that a conversation over the new Wooster Square monument is as equally important as Saturday’s art installation in community conversations over inclusivity and justice within a public art installation. She hoped that the new Elm City monument would be “anti-oppressive, celebratory and liberatory,” and that the activity would help community members imagine what such a statue could look like.
MiAsia Harris, another lead organizer of BLM New Haven, also spoke with the News about what the mural meant for the city’s future. Harris said that the art installation was “another step forward” for the Elm City.
She added that she hopes community members — especially young ones — left Saturday’s event with a “sense of community,” and a desire to work further on local projects and initiatives for Black New Haveners.
“Hopefully people see what we’re trying to do and they jump on board,” Harris told the News. “It doesn’t have to be exactly the way we see it, but bring their suggestions, bring how they see it and we can all collaborate together and co-create a different world than what we live in today.”
The Black Lives Matter New Haven chapter was founded in 2014.
Zaporah Price | firstname.lastname@example.org