What does Black Lives Matter mean? What images or thoughts come to mind when you hear the chant? Is it only associated or relevant after the killing of an African American at the hands of a white police officer? Each of us can answer that for ourselves. For me, the meaning deepened when I had the humbling experience of helping to paint a B.L.M. mural on 63rd & Troost, in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Black Lives Matter is Art!
Going home is always special. And for African Americans, KC-Mo has always welcomed us with landmarks recognizing our greatness. The Negro League museum, The Call Newspaper, revamped 18th & Vine district, Ollie Gates BBQ, and Go Chicken Go (serving the best gizzards) are top of the list stops. Now, murals that tell the story of our struggle against racial inequality and police brutality adorn the city in colorful, creative, unique cultural expressions.
Crissy Dastrup, Project Manager and Board Chair of The Troost Market Collective says the project spans 2,000 feet and is “geographically diverse within the city… which is exactly what the organizers wanted.” Voting 12 to 1, the City Council proclaimed, “the city recognizes the importance and significance of the Black Lives Matter movement and wants to sanction the legitimacy of this powerful initiative aimed at advancing social justice and racial equality.”
In order to make the vision come to life, volunteers were needed to paint. That’s all I needed to hear to make the drive home. Armed with long handled rollers and knee pads, I joined dozens of other residents of all stripes covering the gray concrete with beautiful, bold, bright colors on 63rd and Troost.
Instead of the now classic all yellow lettering, the artist and designer, Warren “Stylez” Harvey infused nine different colors in geometric shapes, each letter containing all nine colors. Stylez is all about bringing peace and harmony to the city. “It’s going to be awesome. My art represents strength, consciousness, spirituality, and divinity. It’s about standing in my (your) truth beyond the character we have created.”
Never having attended formal art school, this brother proves being self-taught by his grandmother was more education than sitting in a class room. “My grandmother taught me and since childhood, I always wanted to be an artist.” Stylez has dedicated himself to God first, his craft, and saying yes. “The more you say yes, the more God says yes to me (you).”
When I was a child, my father never allowed me to get near a paint brush for fear of me getting more paint on me than on the thing being painted; he now would be proud of me; Daddy, I painted 63rd and Troost, I got this; I now know how to paint!!! I did get some paint on me though; a little red, a little black, a little green.
Special thanks to Regina Jones, Reba Tate, Penny Herron, Leon Jones, and Robyn Hicks for enduring the heat with me!!!