Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in many places around the country, people painted in massive letters the words “Black Lives Matter” to raise people’s awareness about the incident and condemn the act of racism. One of those places was Decatur, Georgia.
In August 2020, the City Commissioners of Decatur gathered via a virtual meeting to officially approve a project that would paint massive letters of “Black Lives Matter” on McDonough North Street.
The total cost of the project was close to $16,000, including $8,500 for the painting supplies and $7,500 paying to the artists. The cost was covered by the city’s general budget. The artists were Sharanda Willburn, Petie Parker, and George F. Baker III. All three were Black professional artists. Each was assigned to design a word in the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Willburn was assigned to the word “Black,” Baker to “Lives,” and Parker for “Matter.” All three of the artist’s designs were also approved by the city commissioners on the same day.
Willburn came up with a creative idea to use each letter representing each figure who was innocently killed by the police. She explained that on the letter “B”, she painted traffic signs to signify the death of a 28-year-old African American woman named Sandra Bland, who committed suicide in jail after being falsely arrested by the police and falsely charged with assaulting a police officer.
The letter “L” was for Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot back in 2012. The letter “A” was for Rayshad Brooks’s death caused by a police officer in front of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant and George Floyd, with his last words being “I can’t breathe.” The letter “C” was the map of BART Fruitvale station, where Oscar Grant was killed by a police officer while waiting for the train. Lastly, on the letter “K,” Willburn painted nursing equipment to honor Breonna Taylor, a nurse who was killed by police officers while sleeping inside her apartment, as officers investigated a potential drug dealing operation. On the word “Lives,” Baker chose to draw the faces of the protesters. Parker painted the words “vote” in the word “Letter,” with the ballot boxes to represent his belief that “the change starts from voting and your vote matters.”
With the help of over 500 volunteers, who were the residents of the city (including children and elders), they were able to finish within 2 days and successfully helped spread the message against racism. Decatur was not the only place where the protest occurred. In Atlanta, there were 11 consecutive days of protests. The same occurred in many more cities in Georgia. Unfortunately, the words faded away after 6 months, causing many locals to disagree on why the city did not try to protect it. Many argued that it was because there were some people against that message around the country, and the governor did not want to raise the conflict. One time Willburn was asked as to why the city let the words fade away, and she answered “idk” (I don’t know).
Brown, A. (2020, August 4). City Commission approves 'Black Lives Matter' painting – decaturish - locally sourced news. Decaturish. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://decaturish.com/2020/08/city-commission-approves-black-lives-matter-painting/
Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 9). Death of Sandra Bland. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Sandra_Bland
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Researched by Hung Quoc TranImage URL
News Coverage by City of Decatur and Fox 5 Atlanta