AUSTIN — A new mural on the West Side is aiming to counter recent violence and civil unrest with a message of unity and love.
The massive work adorns the North Austin headquarters for the Westside Health Authority, 5417 W. Division St. The group is dedicated to replacing blight and violence in the area with growth and opportunity.
The group’s approach focuses on building relationships and fostering kinship among residents. The mural and the message of peace is the members’ latest strategy to bring West Side neighbors to the table to build a safer and healthier community.
As the mural was being painted Tuesday, families joined the artists and the Westside Health Authority for a cookout where young people played basketball in the park next to the building.
The mural includes images of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant — heroes to local kids who love basketball, said Rosie Dawson, of the Westside Health Authority.
“The meaning behind it is, ‘Respect the court.’ So when you come out here, have a good time, no violence,” Dawson said.
The mural was painted by members of Paint the City and Love Fights Back, two organizations dedicated to using public art to promote peace.
“In the mural, police officers are kneeling in solidarity with the demonstrators. So this is a dialogue that we want to create,” said Eric Villareal, of Love Fights Back.
The young people in the mural are holding protest signs that match the frustrations many West Side youth struggle with.
Missy Perkins, Paint the City co-founder, said the organization emerged in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests as a way to support businesses that had been damaged by the riots that swept through Chicago. They started painting on boarded-up windows “to help give them a sense of hope and inspiration and to support the Black Lives Matter movement,” Perkins said.
Other parts of the mural show a child being lifted up by many hands of community members. Dawson said this symbolizes the unity and collaboration needed to create the future for youth that Westside Health Authority is striving for.
“It takes a village to raise a child. So that’s why the baby’s uplifted to where she is,” Dawson said.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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