SOUTH CHICAGO — After a mural highlighting unity between Black and Brown communities was painted over on the Near West Side earlier this month, artists reached out to Frankye Payne to help organize a response.
That led to a community event Saturday where muralists from around the city gathered to create a new artwork on the walls of the old Leon’s BBQ at 1640 E. 79th St., across from the street from the Avalon Regal Theater.
In a partnership between The Mural Movement and the Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce, where Payne is executive director, the artists created the mural to celebrate Black and Brown unity.
“This mural is in our community and it has safe space to be here,” Payne said. “There is a visible sign of appreciation, people are excited and we just want everyone to know that the Black and Brown Unity Mural has a home here.”
The Mural Movement began as a way to spread the message of Black and Brown unity and Black Lives Matter through the placement of murals in boarded-up storefronts, according to Delilah Martinez, owner of Vault Gallerie, which is managing The Mural Movement.
“Our objective is ‘We got us, we take care of ourselves.’ And we want to put mural culture and beautifying elements in areas that normally can’t afford or don’t get those things,” said Martinez. “I grew up and live in Pilsen. I know my neighbors and I enjoy walking around, checking out the art. I take care of my community and it’s important that others feel like that about their own community, and it starts with art and murals.”
The Mural Movement has now lead to more than thirty-two murals throughout predominately Black and Brown neighborhoods including Pilsen, Little Village, Auburn Gresham, and their latest addition in Avalon Park.
Present during the event were nine artists, including Sentrock, Cujo, Tubsz, Max Sansing, Nikko Washington, Dred Ske, Milton Coronado and Statjk.
“I want creativity and artwork that reflects the neighborhood,” said Max Sansing, who has already done two other murals around 79th Street. “A lot of these artists we’ve know each other for years and it’s always great to work together.”
For Sansing, the mural will represent the new heroes of today, including Shani Crowe, a local Chicago artist who does work on Black identity and culture.
The mural’s home took three days to prepare, including beautifying the area around it by painting the background wall and cutting grass and weeds.
That caught the attention of community members and inspired many to come out and help, including, Henry,17, Michael,16, and Blessing Annan,10, three brothers who just moved to Chicago from Ghana two months ago.
“We know that as a community we have to help each and everybody,” said Michael Annan. “This mural is like a miracle, and we’re raised to understand that when you see somebody in need you gotta help the person even if you got nothing.”
The unity mural is one of the twenty-one murals that the Southeast Side Chamber of Commerce hopes to place throughout the 8th Ward in an effort to spread the message of Black and Brown unity, Black Lives Matter and to bring attention to these underserved communities.
“A mural like this is bringing reflection on what community and unity is all about,” said Danielle Johnson, program manager at the Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a symbol of hope, unity and what to look forward to as we’re about to enter this new future.”
Check out photos of the mural in progress by photographer Oscar Sánchez: