SAY THEIR NAMES By Britt Ruhe, Director of Commonwealth Murals A tribute mural in Springfield to black and brown people killed by police.
Over three days and nights at the beginning of June, a tribute mural to George Floyd and all other black and brown people killed by police was painted on the Martin Luther King Community Center. “Say Their Names” includes the names of the more than 60 unarmed black and brown people who were unarmed when killed by police in the US in the past 12 months (from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020). The mural also includes the names of seven Springfield residents killed by police. This project was hosted by the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services of Springfield and organized by Rosemary Tracy Woods, Director of Art for the Soul Gallery and Common Wealth Murals. The mural was de- signed and painted by internationally- known muralist and graffiti artist Wane One from New York City and Holyoke, with assistance from two additional muralists, Nero and Souls. (On Instagram: @waneone, @uncle_ro, @soulsnyc) Wane One has been an active and progressive participant in the NYC graffiti and street art community for 36 years, since 1983 when he was 13. Wane has designed for legendary hip-hop groups and artists like Gangstar, Jeru the Damager and Group Home and well-known brands such as Nike, Reebok, New Balance and RYU. Wane One has painted over 40 murals across the US and around the world, as well as two other murals in Springfield. Speaking about this mural, Wane recounted, “As kids we did art and played games in the streets. In the late eighties in the Bronx, a guy by the name of Michael Stewart got killed by the police for writing graffiti. A young kid he was 14 years old. Even back then, we thought to ourselves, ‘We’re painting graffiti it’s illegal, but it wasn’t like we were hurting people. He got killed by the police for writing graffiti.’ There are so many names. It is really painful. We have to bring attention to injustice and racism. We have to keep striving and moving forward. People have to take accountability for their actions, and everyone has to stand up together.” At a press conference about the mural, Ronn Johnson, Director of Martin Luther King Family Services said, “Here today we commemorate the lives of good black and brown men and women who had their lives snuffed out due to an altercation with a law enforcement official. This mural depicts the names of some of the 70 individuals who have lost their lives, not over the last 10 years or 5 years, but the past 12 months in America.” Also speaking at the press conference, Britt Ruhe, Director of Common Wealth Murals said, “Speaking to my fellow white folks – come stand in front of this mural. Say their names. Read the names of every single person whose names are on this mural and see how it makes you feel. And then think about how it would feel if your mother’s name was on that wall, or your child, or your friend.” As she watched the mural go up, Rosemary Tracy Woods commented, “When I see the names, I think – what a tragedy that so many individuals have lost their lives by the hands of people who are supposed to be protecting them.” For eight minutes at the change of each hour, local writers, musicians and dancers gave tribute to those who have experienced violence and death at the hands of police. These performances were organized by Tiffany Allecia of the Springfield Cultural Partnership. Among those presenting were Dr. Alice Farrell, Xavier Farrell, Aaron St. Louis, Bishop Timothy Paul, I’shay Nicole Roger, Moriah Leigh, Stephany Marryshow, Ysanne Marshall and Simbrit Paskins. Reflecting on the performances, the muralists, and the response from the community, Ronn Johnson reflected, “This is the community that I love. The work here is not easy. The fuel is stuff like this.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services 106 Wilbraham Road Springfield, MA 01109 (ADMIN) (413) 746-3655 MLKJRFS Management Team