Ypsilanti residents invited to help paint Black Lives Matter mural on downtown street

Ypsilanti-area residents are invited to help paint a Black Lives Matter mural on South Washington Street in downtown Ypsilanti between Michigan Avenue and Ferris Street, and to attend a Juneteenth celebration featuring the unveiling of the mural.

Trische' Duckworth and Trevor Stone are spearheading the project, and are working closely with the Ypsilanti Art Commission on the mural. City council approved the mural project during its Feb. 16 regular meeting. 

"We want this mural to become a venue for repeated programming throughout the year, done in the pursuit of what Black Lives Matter really means and how we can actually make change," Stone says. "If it's just paint on the street, then it's failed. We need everyone to contribute with their strengths. We need people to gather and meet with politicians and police to talk about how to make Black lives better in Ypsilanti."

Duckworth has spearheaded several Black Lives Matter protests in southeast Michigan through her Survivors Speak organization, but says she's supporting the mural project simply as a community member, not as a Survivors Speak project. Similarly, Stone works for Ann Arbor-based Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW) but is also giving his time as a community member and not as a NEW employee.

Duckworth says she was inspired by similar murals in other cities, but it took several months of talking with other interested community members to come up with a solid plan. Duckworth says the mural is just one step, and there is still work to be done. Through Survivors Speak, she is getting ready to launch a push for ending qualified immunity, a legal principle that makes it hard to prosecute police brutality cases.

"The mural is just our way of saying that we're here, we're not going away, and we're not lying down," Duckworth says. "We're going to continue to push for legislation to help liberate Black lives in Washtenaw County."

Stone says he knows many "amazing, brilliant" people working to make things better for the community, and calls Duckworth one of those "on the front lines."

"We had some conversations about colonialist monuments coming down, but what do we put back up? These murals are a good start," Stone says. "It's not just a painting. We're making it a headquarters where people can come and do work. I'd like to see educational, social, and civic events launched from this site."

Ypsilanti Community High School choir teacher Crystal Harding was recruited to help with fundraising for the project, in part to honor the students she teaches. 

"They're not being seen enough, and their Black lives really matter," Harding says. Her students will be featured singing in a thank-you video being made for mural volunteers, she says.

Community members of high school age or older are invited to participate in painting the mural June 5. If the work isn't wrapped up that day, the project will finish up the following day. The mural will be officially unveiled during a Juneteenth celebration from noon-3 p.m. June 19. The event will feature local DJs and musical artists including Johnny Lawrence and Athena Johnson and Friends.

Those who have questions or want to inquire about donating funds for mural supplies may reach Duckworth at survivorsspeakest2018@gmail.com.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Image courtesy of Trische' Duckworth.