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On Thursday, June 18, 2020, the eve of Juneteenth, a diverse group of Birmingham activist, artists and volunteers completed a street mural stating “Black Lives Matter” right in front of Railroad Park, the award-winning city park that was designed to bring Birmingham together for a future that looks different from our past.
Watch the work in progress here
Bham Nowers Matthew Niblett and Nathan Watson got up early Thursday morning to watch the second and final day’s work on the mural.
Birmingham okayed the project on Tuesday and it was done by Thursday
Inspired by the work of artists in Washington, D.C., the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Birmingham Cara McClure, Joseph Baker from I Believe in Birmingham and reached out to Mayor Woodfin with the idea of painting a massive “Black Lives Matter” street mural somewhere in Birmingham. Separately, local artist Shawn Fitzwater reached out to the City with a similar idea.
The Mayor’s office agreed, and McClure suggested the winning location: right beside Railroad Park on 1st Avenue South between 16th and 17th Streets.
“We need this mural to do the work of encouraging people to have the hard conversations—this is why we wanted it in front of Railroad Park. That way, we can have a future that’s better for everybody,” McClure said.
Cara McClure of Black Lives Matter Birmingham, Joseph Baker of I Believe in Birmingham and Dave Barnhart of White Clergy for Black Lives have set up a GoFundMe to cover the $10,000 cost of the mural. Any overages will support Black Lives Matter Birmingham’s ongoing work in the community.
The planners got word from the City of Birmingham that the project was a go on Tuesday, June 16, and by Thursday, June 18, the project was complete.
Is it all the work that needs to be done to end systemic racism, including police brutality? Of course not, but it’s a visual reminder of where the future lies, and that matters.
Birmingham played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. And there is still work to be done.
In case anyone’s been wondering what recent events have to do with Birmingham, here’s a crash course on one of the ugliest and most transformative eras in Birmingham’s history.
And here are some of Dr. King’s words in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“, written to a group of white clergymen who chastised King in April 1963.
“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. ..
…when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…
…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”
While these words were written in April 1963, they still resonate today, 57 years later, in light of current events that have brought police brutality and systemic racism to the forefront.
Ways to celebrate Juneteenth in Birmingham
Friday, June 19, 2020
- 10 AM – 8 PM: Citywide BBQ at East Lake Park
- 12 PM – 1 PM: Kelly Ingram Park March
- Starts at 7PM: Birmingham Civil Rights Honors Angela Davis (FREE virtual event)
While most of these events have already happened, there are still opportunities to celebrate tomorrow, June 19th and Sunday, June 21.