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ROPE Paints the Town (Pittsfield BLM Edition)

ROPE is creating a 5-sided Black Lives Matter mural on an electrical box in downtown Pittsfield as part of the Artscape Initiative. It is entitled Power and Peace. I have taken part in this electric box project twice before and felt moved by current events to do something again. I was inspired by my daughters, Kamea and Sadiya, and their friend, Olivia Nda. They have all routinely and vigilantly participated in protests against George Floyd's murder and in support of the BLM movement to address racial inequity and outright violence.

My daughter Sadiya, who is part of ROPE, drew a black fist raised up for a protest in Northampton. It had murder victims' names inside of it. When I saw it, I said we should design something for the upcoming Artscape contest. I wanted to show young artists and activists there are visual ways to let your voice be heard. I could imagine how cool it would be, as a teen interested in art, to go do an outdoor art project that not only beautifies the cityscape but sends a social message as well.

Sadiya and Olivia helped design three different proposals for the electric box and the Artscape Committee selected this design. I bought some of the supplies with the stipend they awarded and donated the rest. I wanted to keep paint cost low to pay participants some money for their time, willingness to contribute, and skill. I wanted each teen to feel empowered in the art realm and find joy in painting.

Mrs. E promoted it to the ROPE members and has showed up often to cheer us on. It's always great to have supporters! So far Francis, Dumars, Sadiya and Justinnajah have helped paint. Francis is painting the ROPE logo, which she designed. Dumars helped decide placement and painted the hand symbols. He said it was his first time doing anything like this. Sadiya worked on the rainbow trickle, suggesting it form BLM at the bottom and has begun bringing that portion to life. Justinnajah worked on the BLM letters and the rainbow's second coat.

The best thing about being a part of the project is sharing something I love doing. It's also great when people drive by and beep, give a thumbs up, wave, and congratulate our young adult artists. So far the youth who have joined us seem happy and satisfied with their work. We are about halfway done with it.

One thing that perturbs me a little and seems to frustrate the kids is if people pull up in cars to the nearby stop light and say "all lives matter". This has only happened twice so far.  We quickly try to educate them by saying you are right, however Black lives right now are being treated as if they do not matter so attention needs to be brought to this problem. Black lives, specifically, need to be supported. And this beautiful art project is promoting Black Lives Matter, peace, power and equality. Painting this doesn't mean other lives do not matter; it is actually supporting that statement. To make it true, Black lives must be valued.

Up next... I see more outdoor or large-scale mural projects, teaching young artists that a visual 'voice' can speak as powerfully as a message you hear. I'd love to continue to work with creative youth to build their skills and let them enjoy themselves and be happy painting. Inside the creative process I believe people find peace, oh and of course, power.

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