Following suit with many other cities across the country, Kansas City now has Black Lives Matter street murals. Yes, murals, as in more than one. Kansas City now has six Black Lives street murals, strategically scattered around town. Each is over 300-feet long and designed by different and talented Black artists.
Organized by the Troost Market Collective, a nonprofit providing opportunity to artists, creative entrepreneurs and the community, the project was approved by the city council in August and completely funded through donations.
Early Saturday morning, Sept. 5, crews from the American Institute of Architects Kansas City helped outline the Black Lives Matter letters. Then, each local artist and the nearly 1,000 total volunteers began painting in a two-day-long event.
What makes the Kansas City BLM murals special is that each mural is unique and artistically conveys an additional message inspired by the artist.
Michael Toombs, Kansas City painter and arts educator, designed the Troost and 31st mural. He chose to further display why “Black Lives Matter” by illustrating just a few African Americans who have made a positive and lasting impact on the city.
“There has been a lot of frustration and anger,” Toombs said about the times we are in now, but he said he is attempting to make his project a healing stage. “This is the band-aid and the ointment,” he said.
Toombs’ design, features Kansas City’s Black mayors: Emanuel Cleaver, Sly James and Quinton Lucas. It also features a dancer and Alvin Ailey’s name.
Morgan Brown, a volunteer painter at Troost and 31st said, “I drive by here all the time and I’ll look forward to seeing it.” She said it was important for her to be a part of the project because she wants the Black Lives Matter message to be seen by everyone.
When Vivian Bluett, a Kansas City painter, was designing the mural for Brookside and 63rd Street, she knew she wanted it to be “youthful,” because the mural sits across from the Border Star Montessori School.
Her design features young Black children, fists of empowerment, names of those who have been killed by law enforcement, and the Black Liberation Flag.
Bluett’s goal with the mural was to capture the attention of students going to and from school every day and to plant small seeds that eventually, she hopes, will turn into something big.
“Hopefully, if they don't already know it, it will sink into them, so that when they become adults, and they are the ones running the show, that it won't be forgotten that Black Lives Matter,” Bluett said.
Understanding that the Black Lives Matter movement is misunderstood by some, she says she wants her message to be clear, that the goal of the project is to be inclusive.
“I have three Black sons that I am trying to raise, and in no way am I ever going to tell my sons that police officers’ lives don't matter. But what I am telling my children, is that their lives are no less important than anyone else's lives on this planet, simply because their skin is black,” she said.
Other artists, in additon to Toombs and Bluett, are: Adrianne Clayton, Harold Smith, Warren Stilz Harvey and Avrion Jackson.
The six mural locations:
• Northwest Briarcliff Parkway and North Mulberry Drive
• Baltimore Avenue and West 10th Street
• East 18th and Vine streets
• Troost Avenue and East 31st Street
• Brookside Boulevard and West 63rd Street
• Troost Avenue and 63rd Street
The Troost Market Collective’s Black Lives Matter street murals are the first part of a three-pronged Black Lives Matter project. The next part is a project where artists will paint vertical murals on buildings around Kansas City. Designs will be taken from local artists and voted on by a Troost Market Collective committee, with selections announced at this year’s virtual Troostapalooza in October.
The last part of the Black Lives Matter project is involving individuals and organizations to independently create BLM art in their own neighborhood streets throughout Kansas City.
To learn more about Troost Market Collective, the murals or to make a donation, go to www.troostmarketcollective.org.
Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community.