The Black Lives Matter movement came to life in 2013 after the killing of Trayvon Martin (and the subsequent acquittal of the policeman who killed him). Founded by three women – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi – the movement aims to combat violence and racism, in particular by seeking to eradicate what is called “white supremacy”.
“We can no longer watch from the sidelines what is happening in our nation. We must raise our hands and voices until we force those who are blind to the injustices to acknowledge and protect us.”
In 2020 the movement gained more visibility (after yet another killing of a black man at the hand of the US police) not only thanks to museums and artists but also through murals and graffiti which appeared all over the world.
This year, for the first time in history, the famous magazine Art Review has placed the Black Lives movement to of the list, considering it the most influential artistic personality of 2020. So for the first time it wasn’t an artist or an art critic or an artistic movement but a movement of activist that ranked first place.
The event that triggered this proliferations of street art was the death, rather the killing, of George Floyd. It’s not the first of its kind, but since the fateful date of 25 May 2020, thousands of murals have appeared all over the world underlining the fact that we cannot speak of justice until we recognise that we are all equal and deserve the same rights. As Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
One of the first works of art to appear was the yellow lettering “Black Lives Matter” written in huge lettering on a street near the White House in Washington D.C. The art was commissioned by Mayor Muriel Bowser with the intention of sending a strong and clear message: we all have the right to be recognised as human beings.
“There are people craving to be heard and to be seen, and to have their humanity recognized, and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city“
Graffiti and murals have appeared throughout the United States in support of the movement, as a commemoration and as a memento of what has and is happening. Street art has also appeared in many other cities around the world: in Berlin Dominican artist Jesus Cruz Artiles (aka Eme Freethinker) commemorated George Floyd by painting him on a remaing piece of the Berlin Wall; in Barcelona street artists TV Boy (Salvatore Benintende) has created a portrait of Floyd with with and the street sign “STOP racism”; in Belfast Floyd is portrayed in the position in which he died with three policemen replicating the three wise monkeys “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”; and in Naples a mural of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Angela Davis and George Floyd appeared with tears of blood with inscribed underneath “time to change the world”.
Murals and street art are a way of making art that can often become political denunciation. The urban art works created after Floyd’s death are an expression of the artist, a commemoration, and a form of political activism: they support the BLM movement and demand justice for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor and all the other people who died in similar circumstances – and, as we can see from this mural, which appeared in New York, there are many. Thus art becomes a means of spreading a very strong message, we hope that the support given to the BLM movement will continue and that soon the day will come when rights and justice will be guaranteed to all.
Do you know of any murals or other artistic works made in support of the BLM movement? Let us know in the comments below and we will add it to the article on ZìrArtmag!
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Translated by Ludovica Sarti