Brooklyn likes to be first with everything, especially making a statement.
But the brash borough will happily settle for being the second spot to transform a major street into a “Black Lives Matter” street mural. A similar public art effort last week transformed Pennsylvania Ave. outside the White House.
Artist Robert Carnegie said the Washington, D.C., mural spurred him to bring the same spirit to Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“That inspired me to do more. It reenergized me,” said Carnegie, a co-organizer of the public art installation. “I wanted that same feeling for our community.”
Indira Etwaroo, the other co-organizer, insisted the mural was not ordinary street art. “Our art is protest,” she said.
She wanted to give artists a space to show solidarity with the protests over the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis cop and says she was able to get city permits and donated paint in just a couple of days.
“[It’s] a bigger-than-life canvas for artists to do what they do best, which is speak truth to power,” Etwaroo said.
A team of about 50 volunteer painters spent more than a day etching the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” in giant yellow letters along Fulton St., the busiest roadway in the historically black neighborhood.
They wrapped up the project Sunday, with the finished mural stretching an entire city block between Brooklyn and Marcy Aves.
Along with the words “Black Lives Matter,” the mural includes the names of victims of police brutality.
Artist Diane Nathaniel, 50, heard about the plans for the mural Saturday and organizers handed her a paintbrush.
She hopes the striking mural will keep the spirit of the protests alive, especially among young people who have been taking the lead.
“I feel like our young people see the meaning and the power behind it and are getting more involved,” Nathaniel said. “And that I’m loving to see.”
People shopping on the bustling strip said they are proud the neighborhood is taking center stage in the racial justice protest movement sweeping the nation.
Nadia Lopez, an educator who lives nearby, says it’s important for her to see change right in her neighborhood.
“Activism is nothing without action,” she said “This is a signal of what’s possible.”
Dominque Joseph, who works at a shop named Nicholas Brooklyn, says the mural will help establish the neighborhood as a center of the Black Lives Matter movement.
And he said it wouldn’t hurt to remind shoppers to patronize black-owned businesses.
“It’s like a stamp,” Joseph said. “Everybody will always remember it.”
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