By Tom Travis
Sandra Branch said that healing from racial divide and inequality comes through “unity and communication.”
Gesturing towards the street, Branch added, “Just like you see right now. Everybody’s talking, everybody’s sharing, everybody’s working. We’re all working in cooperation.”
“Team Work makes the dream work. The message is to be peaceful. This is about art empowering life, peace, unity and power. Each one of those is what we’re about.”
Thanks to Branch, a board member of the Flint Public Art Project and director of Gallery on the Go along with Flint’s Director of Placemaking and leader of The What’s Up Downtown Project, Kady Yellow, Flint now has its own Black Lives Matter street painting located on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The street painting is in front of the Soggy Bottom Bar and the recently opened Flint City Hard Cider.
An aerial view of the Black Lives Matter street painting can be seen on The Flint Public Art Project’s Facebook page.
Branch pointed out some of the artists from the community were local grafitti and mural artists: Charles Boike, Zeb Molina, Tony Yarsini. Branch added that these artists are aerosol artists who have worked on many murals for Gallery on the Go.
Flint’s new Placemaking Director Kady Yellow helps guide BLM street painting
Yellow said she assisted in finding the right spot for Flint’s Black Lives Matter street painting. Yellow said among the choices for the street painting location were Second Street in front of The Capitol Theater and the Saginaw Street bridge over the Flint River.
Yellow said she drove around looking for a spot for the painting. “I just knew this was it” on Martin Luther King Boulevard between University Ave and 4th Avenue,” she said.
Yellow said road paint was used for the street painting and that the painting should last a few months.
The four seasons are rough on Michigan roads, Yellow said, and that will have an effect on the longevity of the street painting. It will wear down like any street lines and symbols painted by city work crews.
Yellow said there is no plan for funding maintenance and upkeep of the painting. For this project The Community Foundation of Greater Flint provided the funding for the paint and paint supplies.
Yellow secured permission for the street painting through Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and approval from Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
Mayor Neeley “I am proud to see so many come together to support justice and equity.”
In an email from the City of Flint office Sunday night, Mayor Neeley said, “This community stands united with Black Lives Matter. I am so proud to see so many come together to support justice and equity. Unity is strength. Together we can, and we will, move our community and our nation forward.”
The email also stated, “With the full backing and support of Mayor Sheldon Neeley, the mural was installed through a cooperative effort between Flint Public Art Project, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, The What’s Up Downtwon Project and Flint Downtown Development Authority. A special thank you to Sandra Branch, Kady Yellow, Isaiah Oliver, and Joe Schipani for your work on this project. “
Branch explained that, “we invitied anybody that wanted to support the Black Lives Matter movement to come out. This is a volunteer pop-up. These volunteers are fitting us into their Sunday and we got a lot of response. We’re happy to have the community come out because it shows who we are. We are Flint. We’re united. We’re not prejudice. Everybody’s working on it.”
On Friday, June 5, Washington D.C. led the way for public street art by painting Black Lives Matter on main streets in large cities. The public street art form is spreading across the nation. Within hours members of communities have come together to paint Black Lives Matter on streets. In Washington D.C. it happened to be on NW 16th Ave which leads directly towards The White House.
A Message for the community
Branch explained, “There is a lot of people who care about the Black Lives Matter movement. And those of us who care about the message don’t want a muddled message.”
“We want the message to come from Black Lives Matter. We want it to be multi-generational, multi-cultural and we want it to be peaceful. We invited the sheriff and police. The sheriff said if they got time they’d stop in and they support us.” Branch said.
EVM asked Branch, With this painted permanently on MLK Boulevard, what is the message?
“The message is visual because it’s coming from the north side to downtown. And it’s unifying both ends of town,” Branch said. “And we wanna say one message, that we all support Flint and we support Black Lives Matter.”
Branch added, “This message will live here going right into downtown. Through all of our festivals. To be there for a couple of years hopefully and it’s a powerful statement each word stands on its own. And there’s no mixed messaging here.”
EVM Assistant Editor and reporter Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.