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Black Lives Matter mural artists discuss impact and inspiration

Jaymi Butler

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Black Lives Matter
"My thoughts and dreams with regard to creating this masterpiece in St. Petersburg continue to warm my heart," said Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. She moderated a discussion with the mural's artists Wednesday.

The artists who created St. Petersburg’s Black Lives Matter mural chose different colors, styles and themes for their letters, but there’s one thing they all agree on – more needs to be done to ensure that Black lives truly do matter.

That was the main takeaway from Wednesday’s Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg virtual discussion of the mural, which was painted outside the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in June by 16 artists from the Tampa Bay area. 

Terri Lipsey Scott, the museum’s executive director and moderator of the discussion, called the mural an “extraordinary masterpiece that is part of a continued outcry for liberty and justice for all.” Three months after the death of George Floyd, she expressed sadness over another Black man who was shot by a police officer over the weekend in Wisconsin. The man, Jacob Blake, is now paralyzed, and two people were killed Tuesday at a protest over the shooting.

“Now we add a new name to the list,” she said. “Jacob Blake was shot seven times just days ago by officers who were sworn to preserve and protect, and here we are again today proclaiming that indeed, Black lives matter.”

Catherine Weaver, a St. Petersburg native who created the mural’s letter C, agreed with that sentiment and said she chose the letter because it stands for change. 

“I’ve seen a lot of changes but more needs to be done,” said Weaver, whose studio is located two blocks from the mural. “We all have to make the choice to change.”

That means the entire community needs to consider its actions and what can be done moving forward, said Skylar Suarez, who painted the letter K with a globe in the center.

“The world is watching and time is running out,” she said. “This country is supposed to be one of the greatest in the world, but we still have a lot to do.”

James Kitchens chose his letter, M, to pay tribute to someone who brought major change to the U.S. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He lamented that the issues King faced are still being dealt with today. 

“What he was talking about in the ‘60s is still going on now, which is really sad to me,” said Kitchens, who used excerpts from King’s “I have a dream” speech on his letter. “To have to do this is upsetting, but it’s an honor.”

Daniel Barojas, who painted his letter, R, with the image of a protester marching forward, called participating in the project an “incredible experience” and said the mural’s message is important.

“We have many more hurdles and mountains to climb,” he said. “But we can do it if we do it together.”

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