By Vivian Shipe

Police Officer Shelley Sampson Clemons takes the highest position on the wall. Photo by Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — It is the faces that will grab your eyes and heart as you turn onto Harriet Tubman Street . Against a blue background , stretching the length of the Change Center are twenty five faces of children, all under the age of twenty who have died by gunfire and other traumas in Knoxville over the last few years.

Twenty five.

Lady Tiara Wilson mixes paint for the love rocks being created by volunteers. Photo by Vivian Shipe

Felicia Outsey, Executive Director of Love is the Answer, with the permission and blessing of the overseers of the Change Center, wanted to create a way to remember the children. in keeping with her vision of spreading love in the community, Outsey reached out to get partners and sponsors and then began a quest to find that special artist, the one whose spiritual eye could capture the essence of each child and bring it to life on a 20 foot canvas. She found that artist. Her name is Erica L Chisholm.

Working all week under an unrelenting hot baking sun, Chisholm and her assistant Shalea Niles, painstakingly prepared the wall and then drew into life like figures , the outline  of those who would not live to see graduations, start families, or see retirement. Once the prep was done, there went out a cry into the community, come , grab a brush, help us. Come they did.- from every part of the city.

Police Officer Shelley Sampson Clemons takes the highest position on the wall. Photo by Vivian Shipe

Family members, community leaders, strangers, officials, church groups, children, police officers, and  teachers of those children on the wall. They would paint, step away to cry, and step back up the wall again, determined to complete the mission before them.

All around the wall, volunteers painted rocks with messages of love and planted plants and flowers.

They completed the mural, the paint , pouring from the cans into the willing hands, symbolic of the African tradition of a Libation Ceremony.

Every stroke a message, pouring love into each figure,  crossing physical and spiritual plains saying….

We choose to remember.