ANDERSONVILLE — Portraits and names of hundreds of transgender individuals and people of color who have died from violence now adorn the Black Trans Lives Matter mural in Andersonville.
Local artists and neighbors came together over the weekend to add the names and portraits to the mural along Catalpa Avenue, hoping to highlight the political urgency behind the statement, “Black Trans Lives Matter.”
“It is vital that when folks see that Black Trans Lives Matter [mural] they understand the context of why it matters,” said David Oakes, director of business services for the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce.
The Andersonville chamber commissioned artists in early August to paint “Black Trans Lives Matter” on Catalpa Avenue between Clark Street and Ashland Avenue.
Each participating artist decorated an individual letter in the mural. Artist Bailey Funk painted “say their names” in the letter “B.” That prompted the chamber to think about shedding more light on the lives that have acted as a catalyst to the greater Black Lives Matter social justice movement.
Now flanking the mural are hundreds of names of people of color who have been killed, some by police.
The names in pink are people whom police killed in the last five years. Names in yellow identify unarmed people of color killed by police since 1975, with more names being added this week, according to the chamber.
A series of portraits with the mural honor Black transgender people who have been lost to violence.
Among those depicted in the mural is Marsha P. Johnson, a gay rights activist instrumental in the Stonewall uprising in 1969. Johnson’s death was declared by authorities to be suicide, though friends and activists believe Johnson was murdered.
There’s also Merci Mack, one of at least four transgender people killed during Pride month this year, and Tony McDade, a Black transgender man whom police killed in Florida this spring.
“Transgender women of color were leaders in LGBTQ activism and throughout time, but they have been erased,” Laura Austin, associate director of the Andersonville chamber, said in a statement. “We wanted to give them space. We wanted to make them a priority. It is long overdue.”
A dedication of the new mural was held Saturday. Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) helped get city approval for the artwork. Catalpa remains closed between Clark and Ashland so people can take in the work of art.
“I understand the value and power in art,” Vasquez said previously. “It brings communities together … and it helps get messaging across.”
Andersonville’s mural is the latest in prominent, pro-Black Lives Matter street art to pop up throughout the country during nationwide protests against systemic racism.
The chamber has recently worked on several trans-inclusive efforts, including a trans/gender nonconforming symposium for business owners and a trans visibility takeover of Clark Street in fall 2019.
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