The highly visible wall on Clematis St, one of the main streets in West Palm Beach, is the new home to a powerful mural by Street Art Revolution, a Black-owned artists-led public art collective and firm. The collective is one of the few of its kind in the United States that specializes in providing highly curated and culturally sensitive public art, civic design, and sculptures.
The wall at Respectable Street was home to a huge Black Lives Matter mural that people congregated around and added their own statements to. That mural was transformed into a figurative portrait of some of the best-known – and less-known – figures of the Civil Rights movement.
“For the project, we partnered with the West Palm Beach Arts & Entertainment District, the West Palm Beach DDA, and Subculture Group to bring the project to life,” says Caron Bowman, Street Art Revolution director. “The mural shows the history of the civil rights movement through positivity and hope utilizing portraits and quotes.”
The mural is a collaboration between Street Art Revolution artists Dahlia Perryman, Eduardo Mendieta, and artists Tracy Guiteau, and Nate Dee with curation by Caron Bowman. The artists combined styles and work practices to create the mural using both spray paint and hand brushwork.
The figures are accompanied by some of their most powerful quotes that give truth to power.
The artists have collaborated with Street Art Revolution in the past and everyone’s artwork needed to blend. The idea to show the history of the civil rights movement thru positivity and hope by utilizing portraits and quotes is to teach history in a new way.
The iconic figures in the mural include Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Augusta Savage, and Ella Baker.
(Click on the photos to enlarge them)
Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer rose from her humble beginnings in the Mississippi Delta to become an important, passionate, and powerful voice of the civil and voting rights movements and also a leader in the efforts for greater economic opportunities for African Americans. Hamer was born in 1917 in Mississippi, the 20th and last child of sharecroppers. She grew up in poverty, by age 12 she left school to work but could read and write. In the 60s Hamer was incensed by efforts to deny Blacks the right to vote so she became an organizer. In June 1963, after successfully registering to vote, Hamer and several other Black women were arrested for sitting in a “whites-only” bus station in Charleston, South Carolina. At the jailhouse, she was brutally beaten.
Undeterred she co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which challenged the local Democratic Party’s efforts to block Black participation. By 1968, Hamer’s vision for racial parity in delegations had become a reality and Hamer was a member of Mississippi’s first integrated delegation.
Artist Augusta Savage was fostered by the climate of the Harlem Renaissance. During the 1930s, she was well known as a sculptor, art teacher, and community art program director. Her father was a poor Methodist minister who opposed his daughter’s early interest in art. My father licked me four or five times a week,” Savage once recalled, “and almost whipped all the art out of me. I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.”
Ella Baker was an activist largely behind-the-scenes as an organizer whose career spanned more than five decades. In New York City and the South, she worked alongside some of the most noted civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., and W.E.B. Du Bois, an influential African American rights activist during the early 20th century. He co-founded the NAACP and wrote ‘The Souls of Black Folk.’
While Baker criticized charismatic leadership; she promoted more grassroots organizing and the ability of the oppressed to understand their worlds and advocate for themselves. Baker has been called “one of the most important American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the Civil Rights movement.” She is known for her critiques not only of racism within American culture but also of sexism within the civil rights movement, a double burden.
“We are at a critical moment in our history, where we desperately need the beauty of art, culture, human kindness, and understanding,” says one of the artists, Dalhia Perryman. “Yes, this project is an opportunity to celebrate both well-known and lesser-known icons of black history; and I honor that, but on a deeper level, it is an opportunity to invite the community to learn from us and each other while engaging in respectful dialogue.”
In the years that Perryman has been here, she has very rarely seen mural walls that highlight the African diaspora that spans several decades and focuses on lesser-known, but no less valuable contributions to black history.
“To see this visual depiction in a prominent, multicultural, well-traveled location, curated and created by people of color is breathtaking,” says Perryman. “I am extremely honored both as a woman of color and an artist to be given the opportunity to celebrate several of the people whose labor and work gave me the opportunities I have today. I stand on all of their shoulders.”
The powerful mural will stay up for a few months in a spot that has become ground zero for creative, political art in the heart of the Arts District in West Palm Beach.
West Palm Beach mural celebrates icons of the Civil Rights Movement