Artists develop murals in the name of black and brown unity

This year has been a tumultuous one. From a worldwide pandemic keeping us home more than we’d like, to a Black Lives Matter Movement, years in the making, ignited by the murder of George Floyd and culminating in nationwide protests, riots and looting. From June of this year, up until now, there have been efforts by artists and activists alike, to unite and pacify the anger with art. In big cities throughout the nation, there have been street murals on major roads that read Black Lives Matter. Some EXPO artists, including our Creative Director Roho Garcia, participated by painting a letter in the mural painted in Berwyn, Ill while others participated in one on Chicago’s north side Uptown neighborhood. 

One project that started in June was the Black and Brown Unity mural. As an effort to collectively unite the black and brown communities and to pacify conflict developed from anger and misunderstanding, Black and Latino artists came together to create the mural in West Town. 

When friends of the artists went to the location to check out their work, they found that it was white washed — painted over in white paint. The word among the artists and the art community spread fast.

“I found out through Tubs and word spread fast through social media, more specifically Instagram,” said D. Rëko, participating artist and photojournalist. “It was a heavy feeling especially after putting in all that work. With everything that was happening at the time, it definitely felt like a low blow.”

“A Lot of the artists were really upset because we felt it was a direct attack toward us,” said Tubs, one of the lead artists on the project. “There was a mix of emotions within the group of artists.” 

As much as it hurt to see that happen to their artwork, it didn’t defeat the group. 

“Overall there was a spirit of resilience that we will continue to spread positivity through our artwork,” said Tubs.

Black and Brown Unity Mural located on 18th and Bishop in Pilsen. Photo by Christina E. Rodriguez-Estrada

After talking it over, the artists started a Go Fund Me in order to finance as many Black and Brown Unity murals they could create. Their original goal was to create 10 murals around the city of Chicago. 

So far, the group has created three murals and they plan to keep going until “the Chicago weather stops us,” said Tubs. 

One mural is located on 79th and Stony Island, across from the Regal Theater and the latest is located in the Pilsen neighborhood on the side of the Pilsen Vintage Shop on 18th and Bishop. The first, of course, was the white washed mural. 

The murals carry the recurring theme of Black and Brown unity. 

“I wanted to have the wall show imagery of Black and Brown faces that show love and pride of who we are, the richness of our cultures and the strength of our people,” said Tubs.”[To show] that the Black and Brown community stand together.” 

The artists say that they’ve seen an outpouring of support from different people within the communities, wanting to make donations and support as much as possible. 

If anything, they say, this has made them realize just how much work is left to do in order to unite communities. 

“We have a long way to go as a community in general. As a city, scarred by segregation and violence or country at that,” said D. Rëko. “But we have to rebuild without destroying. For us and our future leaders. To destroy and rebuild is much easier than to rebuild without destroying. Just like remodeling a house or updating a classic car. A difficult and painstaking task. A task that will involve everyone’s abilities to step in.”

Participating artists include Tubs, D. Rëko, MiltOne, Dredski, Cujoh, Niko Washington, Sentrock, Gape, Statik and Max Sansing, among others. Assisting with the coordination and logistics of the projects is Delilah Martinez owner of Vault Gallerie and creator of @themuralmovement. 

Photos in gallery, courtesy of D. Rëko

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