Hundreds of volunteers turned up on Jamaica Avenue last Thursday morning to paint the city’s newest Black Lives Matter mural.
The new work was put in place between 150th and 153rd streets with the Rufus King Manor Museum to the north.
The section of road was co-named Back Lives Matter Avenue.
Crews from the city’s Department of Transportation were out hours before the noon start measuring out the individual letters and outlining them with tape and narrow lines of yellow paint. Come noon they handed out paint rollers to individuals, civic groups and elected officials to get the sign rolling.
Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) put down some paint before stepping back to the sidewalk on the hot, humid day.
“I’m just going to be a spectator now,” Miller said. The murals now have been painted in each borough. Miller said the signs, and the decisions of people to participate, have brought the young and old of the community together and are a reminder that there has been racial progress, and that more is needed.
Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) believes moving forward with the sign in Jamaica is especially important for younger people.
“It’s important that they know that black lives really do matter, that it’s not just a cliche,” she said.
Mayor de Blasio also dropped by. Other public officials participating included state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village) and Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows).
About 20 members of the Queens Chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority were on hand.
“We’re a service organization,” chapter Vice President Wilhelmine James said. “This is part of our service.”
Darrell Craig of the iRock charity said his organization works for the benefit of youth and seniors, and has been spending much of the last few months trying to help needy residents obtain food.
He believes the location of the sign was well thought-out.
“There’s important symbolism,” he said. “This is right in front of the home of one of our Founding Fathers [Rufus King] who worked on our Constitution. He was an abolitionist.” Then, directly across the street, is the Queens Family Court complex.
“Family Court has been destroying black families for generations, whether people want to say it or not.”
Miller used the weeklong closure of the road to set up a series of events to celebrate the mural and the community.
The remaining events, weather permitting, include a Community Day celebration scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday hosted by Dr. Bob Lee of WBLS Radio; and Millennial Day set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, featuring live performances by young artists as well as a youth rally. Information on filling out the U.S. Census also will be available both days. Events earlier in the week included days for gospel music, a youth and family day, health screenings and a block party for peace.
De Blasio took some heat from the Twittersphere from critics who feel he has better things to focus on than painting a mural. James Johnson, a community activist who seeks to engage the millennial population on the community and civic discourse, told the Chronicle that he thinks the mayor needs to meet with more young people. He also said things like community centers should be a higher priority, and he doesn’t count the planned refurbishment at Roy Wilkins Park.
“You brought us some yellow paint; great,” Johnson said. “Southeast Queens is a community center desert. Roy Wilkins is one center. A teen shouldn’t have to get on a bus to go to a community center.”