Taking it to the Streets: Mural of BLM

Young and old rejoiced as the mural came together. Courtesy photo

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — It happened. Despite the late night announcement by Mayor Indya Kincannon to the 10 pm News that it was a no go…Despite the”mysterious’’ water main break at 6:15 am, when the project was supposed to start at 6:30 am….the people showed up.

After all, everything was in order right up to the night before. Approval had been given during a zoom meeting held

Looking down MLK in Knoxville. Photo by Aaliyah Shipe

between Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie, Diversity Director Charles Lomax, the police department and other city departments with the project coordinators, Black Coffee Justice and Black Lives Matter pending the signatures of approval from the surrounding citizens and businesses of the community; all of which were turned in to the city the following morning.

One of the first to sign the petition giving approval to create the Black Lives Matter mural which was to be painted between Austin-East High school and the oldest Black business in Knoxville; Jarnigans Mortuary, was the owner, Beal Bourne.

Bourne, who fully supported the project, opened his building to allow people to use his restrooms, provided a rest space from the 90 degree heat, even provided electricity for the DJs who played music all through the project. He allowed Black food trucks and businesses to use his parking lot to set up and feed the people who came to paint. His only requirement was that they must wear masks on his property which they respectfully did as they worked, young and old, in shifts to paint the letters.

The mural work began with the artist directing the drawing of the 25 foot letters. From paper to concrete, the words

Future leader. Photo by Vivian Shipe

begin to come alive. After the base was painted, the adults moved in to fill in the design. Using the Rastafarian colors,  BLACK was red, LIVES was yellow and MATTER was green. After the adults had done their painting, it was the children’s turn.

Children, Black and white, from ages one to teenagers, dipped their hands in the paint and left their mark on history by placing their hand prints in the letter yellow “L” and the green “M.” All day, young and old laughed and danced together as the mural came to life. Whole families came to participate. Some even arriving at sunrise to be a part of history.

Everything was donated by the community. Food, ice, coolers, Gatorade, waters,

Hand prints of future leaders. Photo by Vivian Shipe

paint, and the rollers flowed into the event as people drove up and gave supplies all day. There were medic tents, and even a very successful voter registration tent.

The last few letters of the mural which could not be completed, will be painted in the weekend to come, after the city completes the repair of the water line. Then, the children will return to complete making their mark on history. 

Bourne, who sat observing the entire event said, “Look at those children, they are having fun. There is no trouble here, there is only unity. These are our future leaders. They are a part of history.”

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