Hundreds of people come out to make their mark on Sebastopol’s Black Lives Matter mural

On Friday evening, July 25, hundreds of people came out to downtown Sebastopol to put their mark on the city's new Black Lives Matter mural, which stretches across the sidewalk of the plaza.

The initial lettering of the mural — “Black Lives Matter” in bright yellow paint — was done a few days before the community event was held. On Friday, event attendees were able to dip their hands in paint and fill in the spaces in between the letters with handprints. Those interested in putting their hand prints on the mural ranged in age from small kids to older adults, and waited in a line that wound through the plaza in order to place their prints while socially distanced. 

The mural and related community event was put together by a recently-formed group, Black Lives Matter Visibility Team, which consists of local youth and adults. The group came together about a month ago and subsequently pitched and planned the mural and event.

The event also included t-shirt silk screening, a performance from dancer Nebula and a table where people could pick up a free mask.

$1,000 in funding for the project was donated by the city’s Public Arts Committee. 

“We would like to bring together community members to make this a fun inspiring community project,” said Sebastopol sophomore Adanna Okiwelu, a co-organizer of the event, while presenting to the Sebastopol City Council on July 7. “Hopefully we can turn this project into a teaching and learning experience that is inclusive of everyone. This project is important to us because we really want to bring unity and support to Sebastopol.”

The paint used in the mural is the same kind of paint used in roadways, so the mural will be permanent. 

Co-organizer Dezi Rae Kai said that when the team went to paint the words on the sidewalk last week, they had people walking up to them excited about the mural to come. She noted that it helped to build interest for Friday’s event.

While the bulk of the response to the mural was positive, Kai said that they did have an encounter with one person the day before the community event who disagreed with what they were doing, and they had to get the police involved. 

“Having a beautiful, permanent piece of art located in such a central area and meaningful area will hopefully raise awareness and spark necessary conversations,” Okiwelu said.

Speaking to councilmembers, Okiwelu said that once protests and regular conversations surrounding an end to racism and police brutality begin to fade, the mural can serve as a reminder to continue to fight for change.

“When the youth in Sebastopol become the leaders of Sebastopol, we want them to be able to show their kids that they live in a place that stands up against injustice,” she said. “We live in Peacetown, so we want our voices to be heard — if there is no justice, then there can be no peace.”

Kai said that Friday’s mural event went better than she had anticipated.

“I thought it went beyond well — I was not expecting anything like that,” Kai said. “I was expecting maybe 50 people to show up … I did not expect to see a line down the street, down the sidewalk. I’m really impressed with everybody’s kindness and everybody’s willingness to come out and support.” 

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