WEST CHATHAM — It was a day of healing and triumph as Joe “Cujodah” Nelson unveiled his mural on the wall of the West Chatham Walmart Thursday.
Nelson was commissioned by the big box retailer this year as a way of signaling its commitment to the community. Another mural from another local artist, Tia Etu, was unveiled at the Austin Walmart Supercenter earlier this month.
“I had a lot of butterflies today. I was a little scared. But, seeing it up, and seeing how people feel about it? It’s overwhelming,” Nelson told Block Club.
The work pays homage to the beauty of Chatham, and some of its more illustrious icons like Mahalia Jackson, Charles Hayes, Eugene Pincham and Thomas Dorsey. Other panels depict a trio of kids with a line of bungalows in the background, and the words “Peace, “Community,” “Safety” and “Hope.”
The Lakeview High grad spent weeks in his studio transforming 16 large, cumbersome panels into a cohesive work of art, enlisting the aid of friends and volunteers from My Block, My Hood, My City to help with priming them.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), who was on hand Thursday to congratulate Nelson, saw the unveiling as Walmart reaffirming its commitment to a neighborhood scarred by broken promises.
“For the years it was open they’d always heard they were losing money. And after it was looted and destroyed it would’ve been really easy for them to leave,” said Brookins. “[Walmart CEO] Doug McMillon coming out here and listening with respect to the commitment to hire African Americans and to put as many as they can to work — not only in the store, but as tradesmen and contractors. It means a lot to the community.”
A crowd of 40 or so onlookers, including some of Nelson’s relatives, gathered in front of the store at 8300 S. Stewart Ave. to take in the visuals.
“It’s inspiring to the kids, and a big statement to the community,” said Chatham resident Lamont McKinney. “People think Chicago is all bad, but this mural shows who we truly are, and shines a light on what we truly stand for.”
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