The grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Mike Brown, came out Monday night and unfortunately that resulted in lots of violence for Ferguson and other areas around St. Louis. Emotions are running very high, and that’s to be expected considering all of the circumstances. Again, whether or not anyone agrees or disagrees with the grand jury decision or any other part of the case, Ferguson needs support. After having been there, I can tell you it’s an adorable little town probably not unlike your own.
On Saturday, two SIUE professors and three students (along with lots of other volunteers) partnered with the Ferguson Youth Initiative to paint murals on the boards of the boarded up buildings in Ferguson. The group I was in was assigned Ferguson Hardware on S. Florissant Road. We had several panels that we could cover, so we decided to use the Martin Luther King Jr. quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” and then paint around it. With 5 people painting it only took about an hour and a half. One person in our group was a local art teacher, and the other was a volunteer that works regularly with the youth through FYI. We got our paint and walked over to the hardware store.
There was one teeny panel around the corner that we did after finishing the big mural. It was pretty funny to go from 5 people painting on 15 (give or take) feet across to 5 people painting 4 feet but we made it work :)
After finishing the hardware store, we moved over to Ferguson City Hall. There were boards on the left side of city hall, over the center doors, and on the right. Groups of FYI volunteers primed and then started painting. It was decided that there would be a tree in the middle (where the doors to the building are) and then have leaves and swirls going out onto the wood panels on each side and the leaves would have hopeful words/phrases written on them. It didn’t come out exactly as planned (when does it ever?) but still looked pretty awesome and everyone was pleased with how it turned out!
An SIUE student, a friend she brought, myself and a high school senior from Ferguson did the right side. I didn’t meet them directly, but it was my understanding that a family of two parents and three kids (ages 6-12) did the tree in the center, along with several other volunteers as well. I so enjoyed working near them and observing the way they got their children involved in the project. And the kids were so precious! A boy, probably around 12 or so, didn’t want to paint so he put on gloves and was picking pieces of shattered glass out of the brush near where we were painting. I was so impressed, he was so sweet!
The high school senior I was working with and I decided to sneak a few words in on our side!
There was a set of doors out a bit out of view. One of the youth decided that all the volunteers should cover the doors with their hand print and name!
We had a great day painting. Ribbons of Hope also had a table set up and lots of ribbons got made. I was so humbled by people walking by and expressing their gratitude for what we were doing. If you would like to get involved, please consider making some ribbons (see previous post) or going to Ferguson and doing some shopping or dining. There are a few bakeries, and lots of cute stores and restaurants. Participating in painting murals reminded me how important community art is and that kids are never too young to involve in these kinds of efforts. What has happened to Ferguson is a tragedy but I hope that the murals around town can lift people’s spirits a bit and offer them some hope. There is still work to be done in the United States as far as our justice system is concerned, and the murals won’t fix that. But if the murals and ribbons can brighten the day of a resident, passersby, or business owners and remind them that there is good in this world and that people care about their community, then the ribbons and murals have served their purpose.
Finally, here are a few pictures of the art work being done around us. I encourage you to go to Ferguson and experience it first hand, and buy a little something while you’re there!