The end of October is coming in thick and fast, marking the end of Europe’s Black History Month. 2020 could potentially be one of the most significant years when discussing Black history, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement taking forefront with the death of George Floyd, Breyonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. But with this tragedy, we’ve witnessed communities coming together the world over, people taking the initiative to learn about the social issues and art being created in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Let’s take a look at some of the artwork and creative movements that have stemmed from Black Lives Matter over the past year.
RECLAIMING H STREET ART TUNNEL
An organic gallery of protest artwork located under some scaffolding on H Street Art Tunnel in Washington D.C. was faced with demolition when a local, grass-roots organisation, Palm Collective, quickly sprang into action in August, 2020.
Much of the work, that depicted messages and art connected to the BLM movement, was already taken down by the time that the Palm Collective team arrived, but they got straight to work. On an August Sunday, families, neighbours and activists came together to create some art and ‘reclaim’ the H Street Art Tunnel.
Prior to that day, the wall was covered in protest art, however, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced that they were taking the art down due to wear and tear of the elements and would preserve the work for future display. This triggered Palm Collective co-founder, Bethlehem Yirga, to create the event that would reclaim the space: “The fact that piece of the mural was missing and then all of the organic art here was gone, it was a double blow,” she said. “It caused us to mobilize even quicker.”
“This space is a place to come together, heal, talk to one another, and read all the messages,” says Yirga, believing that creating art is a healthy outlet for expression, especially through these trying times. “Mental health and self-care is a huge component of the activism that’s been going on on the front lines this year.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER MURALS
During the protests over the summer, Roadways across the United States were painted with the words ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ in giant block letters.
From Washington D.C. to uptown Charlotte and L.A.’s Hollywood Boulevard, colourful lettering paved the way to honour the Black Lives Matter movement, and drones were there to capture the historic artwork:
In fact, this creative concept took off with such gumption, it was not only painted on the roadways of over 70 cities in 25 states in the US but a BLACK LIVES MATTER mural was also painted in Toronto in Canada, Brunswick in Australia and Greenwich in the United Kingdom.
INDIGENOUS ARTISTS STAND BY THE MOVEMENT
The Rapid Response Art Fund joined forces with Native-led nonprofit organization, IllumiNative to support Native artists who are creating art in the name of BLM. In the wake of the killings of George Floyd and the protests that followed, the fund was set up to support and provide resources for Native artists to participate in the discussion of racism in the United States.
Executive Director of IllumiNative, Crystal Echo Hawk, said: “The time has come for a reckoning in this country that is built upon stolen lands of Native Americans and the stolen bodies and labor of African Americans. We need to both reimagine and build a new way forward to end the systemic racism that has been a driving force in this country for hundreds of years. We believe Native artists can play an important role in helping to advance that dialogue nationally and within their respective communities.”
STREET ARTISTS PAY TRIBUTE
The death of George Floyd triggered worldwide protests over the summer. Even with a global lockdown, people understood that there was a greater pandemic that needed to be addressed. And with that, street artists also sat up and took note and created.
The graffiti art depicts a painting of a vigil candle burning a flag of the United States. Beneath the flag sits a framed portrait of an unidentified face leaning against the wall. Surrounding the portrait lies a bunch of lily flowers.
Accompanying his artwork, Banksy includes a statement that reads:
“At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine.”
“People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs.”
“This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”
French street artist, JR, had painted a mural on the side of a building located in Paris’ 10th arrondissement. A tribute to George Floyd and Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in French police custody in July 2016, the mural depicts the eyes of the two men. Both looking towards the horizon but in different directions. In the foreground of the mural, the artist painted the cracks in the road where George Floyd had died.
Paying tribute to George Floyd, Eme Freethinker painted a portrait on a section of the former Berlin Wall. The street artist captioned the mural with, “I can’t breath”, the last words Floyd spoke moments before his death. The artist also painted three hashtags on the mural reading: ‘#georgefloyd’, ‘#icantbreath’, and ‘#sayhisname’.