Written by Jill Miller (Editor-In-Chief)
After months of protests and group meetings in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the city of Santa Cruz has finally been able to put out a permanent depiction of their support for Black lives and their promise to fight systematic racism. In downtown Santa Cruz a ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural was painted by over 500 volunteers in front of City Hall on September 12th. Back in June 2020, Santa Cruz City Council approved the project to be done after the murder of George Floyd that went on to spark a modern civil rights movement.
Spearheaded by Santa Cruz artist Abi Mustapha, the mural depicts the words “Black Lives Matter” in giant yellow block lettering across Center Street in front of City Hall, a mirror image of the mural that was painted in Washington D.C. back in early June. After multiple Black Lives Matter protests and gatherings over the summer in Santa Cruz county, this was another way for the community to come together and show support for Black people that are disproportionally affected within our systems, whether it be within job opportunities, law enforcement, or prison complexes.
When City Council approved the project back in June of this year, Santa Cruz Commission Vice-Chair Sean McGowen released a statement on the project, saying, “I think this mural is a good starting point for a larger discussion that needs to happen about systemic racism, not only in our community but in the nation, the mural is the least important part. The mural is a first stepping stone toward a larger discussion.”
Even after the devastating CZU Fires that spanned across the Santa Cruz mountains and Davenport, volunteers showed up from all over Santa Cruz County to help make the mural a reality, including students from San Lorenzo Valley High School. Konnor Long, A senior at SLVHS was one of these volunteers and describes his experience taking part in the painting of this mural. He explains, “It was still a bit hazy out from the earlier fires, but there were so many people there beaming and eager to paint. We each took turns grouping up to work in fifteen-minute shifts on each of the letters. I could see whole families helping and everyone coming along with their friends, it pulled such a crowd that eventually people who didn’t even know about it when it first started were joining the rest of the painters. There was food and music and dancing, it didn’t feel solemn at all, it was a celebration of what we as a community were able to accomplish. It was filled with live speeches and poetry that reflected what this mural meant to them, and above all, it was an educating experience.” He continued on to explain why the project was important to him and to the community, stating, “What inspired me to help paint the mural was my ability to actively make a change in my community. You always hear about the places who’ve painted their own murals and made their own mark as a reminder to the public that this movement isn’t going anywhere, and it feels like such an honor to be able to help paint that reminder in my own community. It’s not just a mural, it’s a promise that change is imminent, and when it does that mural will still stand as a reminder of how far we’ve come.”