Areial view on Knoxville’s mural.

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — The call came in late Friday afternoon at 4 pm, after many meetings and phone calls/ Knoxville

Lacresha McKinney, founder of Live Learn Grow, brought her little one to be part of history.
Photo by Vivian Shipe

Mayor Indya Kincannon gave a written permit to Black Coffee Justice; the organization that has been trying to complete the Black Lives Matter Mural on Martin Luther King Avenue for the last three weeks.

The battle has not been easy and the war is apparently not over.

Last Thursday, when the confusion came at the tenth hour when the message was given to the media that the project was off, a demand came on Friday from School Board Member Evetty Satterfield to remove the mural. 

In a letter to the City Council, Satterfield, in whose district Austin-East High sits, wants the mural to be removed before the 2020-2021 school year starts. Satterfield stated, among other concerns, the words would have a traumatic effect on the students who attend the school because they are written on the ground in front of the school. The mural will be a constant reminder of the racial inequities they face in Knoxville. Satterfield has put out a call to the city to contact city council members demanding its removal. The issue will be addressed by many during public forum on Tuesday, July 14, when the city council meets.

Some of the members of Black Coffee Justice.

In contrast, the businesses and homeowners surrounding the mural have voiced their support and see the mural as a good thing. 

Mr. Bourne, owner of  the 100-year -old Jarnigans Mortuary, the oldest African American buisiness in Knoxville, and whose business faces the mural, again opened his business and his adjoining property for use by the community as he had done the weekend before. “Its only paint, its not blood.” said Mr. Bourne. “I have not heard anything negative. I see children out there with their parents, there is only unity here.”

Members of the A-E Class of 73 brought their kids and came to show their support and
register voters.
Photo submitted

With a festival atmosphere, the painting began again at 6:30 am with even more children showing up to put their hand prints in history as one of the most positive things to happen in East Knoxville in awhile,  unfolded to music and free food, Gatorade, water and ice cream. Strict attention was paid to wearing masks and every table, including the voter registration table manned by alumni of the A-E class of 1973, had extra masks and sanitizer. All the children participated. The youngest was a beautiful baby who will be part of the Class of 2038. 

The work continued under beautiful  skys, a light breeze and with little humidity. Finally it was done. As the drone took to the sky at 8 pm to record the moment in history; it revealed the beauty of  community: Black, white, Muslim, Hispanic, all  who had worked to rise together, to say Black Lives Matter with the hope that the cities constant refusal by past administrations to pour any capital investment dollars into the East Knoxville community would finally be reversed.