Street murals in Newark (City of Newark/Issac Jiménez photo)

Urban News Staff Reports

Newark follows the nationwide trend of painting street murals with messages of the importance of Black lives during the aftermath of the police killing of Black, unarmed George Floyd in Minneapolis.

As protests and demonstrations across the state continue for racial justice, several artists, community members and elected officials made their message loud and clear by painting on two streets in Newark. The first mural, which reads “ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER,” was painted on Halsey Street, east of the Rutgers Newark campus and the other reads “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY,” which is located on Martin Luther King Boulevard between the Essex County Historic Courthouse and the Veterans’ Courthouse.

“With these two statements, we are shifting the narrative to promote thoughtful reflection and continued dialogue. In order to say Black Lives Matter, we have to Abolish White Supremacy,” said City of Newark, Arts and Cultural Affairs Director fayemi shakur. “Through collective art-making, we were able to provide a space for safety, joy, and community engagement.”

The murals were produced last weekend in collaborative partnership with the City’s Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Rutgers University-Newark Graphic Design Program, New Arts Justice at Express Newark, and local muralists Malcolm Rolling and Laqya Nuna Yawar. Nearly 300 students, artists, organizers and residents helped paint the messages throughout the day in 2-hour shifts as they practiced social distancing.

“The convergence of art and protest is an age-old practice, especially pronounced in African-American culture,” Mayor Ras Baraka said. “Poetry, music, graphic arts and street murals are all public avenues to have our voices heard. “Newark is a movement City as well as a City of artists, and our community is one that advocates for equity and social change not just here but for the entire country.”

Forty students from the Rutgers-Newark Graphic Design Program were paired with 40 artists to draft and outline the mural’s 25 ft. high letterforms in preparation for the day of community painting. Rebecca Jampol, professor and co-director of Project for Empty Space, served as lead of the project and is also the organizer of the Four Corners Public Art Project and “Gateways to Newark,” seen along McCarter Highway. 

“Our community street murals made a statement and model a solution,” said Professor Salamishah Tillet of Rutgers University-Newark and the director of New Arts Justice at Express Newark. “Through this unique collaboration between the city, community artists, and the university campus, we brought Newark, and our nation, one step closer to making the long-deferred dream of racial justice a reality.”

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