Cities Across the US Are Painting Massive Black Lives Matter Slogans on Their Streets, Following in the Footsteps of Washington, DC

Block-spanning text paintings appeared in Oakland, Sacramento, and Raleigh over the weekend.

Painters work on a mural on 16th Street in Washington, DC June 5, 2020 before the renaming of the street Black Lives Matter Way in front of St. Johns Church. (Photo by Toni SandysThe Washington Post via Getty Images)

In Washington, DC, the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” appeared on Friday night in 35-foot-long yellow letters across two blocks directly north of the White House. 

The mural, commissioned by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, went viral before it was even completed. Civil rights leader and Georgia representative John Lewis, who is currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, pilgrimaged to see it on Sunday, calling it a “powerful work of art.” And Apple updated its satellite imagery of the capital city to include a view of it from space.

Since then, cities across the country have followed DC’s lead and painted their own massive murals on municipal property. The phrase “END RASCISM NOW” popped up in bold yellow paint on Sunday morning in Raleigh, on a street next to the Contemporary Art Museum. 

Museum board member Charman Driver led the effort, along with her husband and a dozen volunteers, who started the painting the work early Sunday morning.

Driver originally sought to paint the message on the street leading up to the grounds of the state capitol building, on which several Confederate monuments sit. But Raleigh’s mayor, Mary-Ann Baldwin, denied the request, noting that the road in question was owned by the state. Eventually she directed the activists to the Warehouse District, near the museum.

“We did it. And it’s wonderful. And we feel really good about it,” Driver told the Raleigh News & Observer. “Our voices are being heard, but it’s not enough. We want to paint that block, but what we want ultimately is for those statues to be removed.” 

In Sacramento, activists painted their own “BLACK LIVES MATTER” message in the grass across three medians on the city’s Capitol Mall, just west of the California capitol building. The project, commissioned by Sacramento city councilman Steve Hansen and coordinated by local nonprofit the Atrium, was led by artist Demetris “BAMR” Washington and executed with the help of some 300 volunteers. 

All in all, it took five hours to complete, Washington explained on Instagram. “[We’re] just trying to get this message out there in a very positive way,” he told the Sacramento Bee. “A lot of people out here for the cause. Everybody coming together for one thing and that’s unity.”

Meanwhile, an hour away, hundreds of artists and activists in Oakland used 75 gallons of yellow paint to imprint the movement’s message in 25-foot-long letters on a street spanning three consecutive blocks. 

The mural was organized by Poncho Kachingwe, the owner of a local bar and gallery. And while it started in guerrilla fashion, city hall ultimately granted the grassroots endeavor permission after police officers tried to intervene. 

“Normally I would just go by the rules and try to make sure we’re doing everything by the book, but this was like, it’s gotta be in the moment,” Kachingwe told KCBS. “If it’s not in the moment, it’s not really showing the true spirit of Oakland.”  

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