The sun had been up for only about an hour Sunday morning when Charman Driver and about a dozen other people convened on a street in downtown Raleigh, N.C., for another day of protesting racism. But instead of signs and banners, the group showed up with a different means of spreading their message: paint.
Within hours, three giant words written out in marigold yellow block lettering stretched the length of a city block near the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh.
“End Racism Now.”
“This is what I’m doing for my child,” Driver, a community activist and local business owner, told WRAL. “Her and her friends need to know the real truth about this country that we live in.”
Raleigh’s street art took about six hours to complete, with some letters as tall as 20 feet, WTVD reported. The street painting is one of several of its kind that have recently popped up in cities nationwide as unrest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes last month, has continued to consume the country.
The first such slogan started taking shape Friday morning on 16th Street NW in Washington directly north of the White House, where city work crews joined local artists and volunteers to paint “Black Lives Matter” in yellow – an action sanctioned by Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser. That same day, Bowser, who has been engaged in an escalating fight with President Donald Trump over control of the city’s streets, also renamed a portion of the thoroughfare “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
— Muriel Bowser (@MurielBowser) June 5, 2020
“There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen and to have their humanity recognized,” Bowser said during a news conference Friday. “And we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city. That message is to the American people that black lives matter, black humanity matters, and we as a city raise that up.”
The painted words now cover two blocks and are so large they can be seen in some satellite photos. Over the weekend, protesters added to the message, painting “Defund the Police,” in matching yellow letters.
— Planet (@planetlabs) June 5, 2020
Black Lives Matter organizers are painting “Defund the Police” in yellow paint on 16th Street right now pic.twitter.com/62zFMPXXOo
— Samantha Schmidt (@schmidtsam7) June 7, 2020
As images of Washington’s streets swiftly went viral, similar slogans have appeared in Sacramento, Oakland and Raleigh in recent days. With the support of local leaders, groups led by artists and activists spent hours adorning roadways in their cities with bold messages expressing support for protesters.
On Friday in Sacramento, volunteers helped artist Demetris “BAMR” Washington paint “Black Lives Matter!” on grassy medians spanning three blocks along a street leading to the California State Capitol. The project was organized by city council member Steve Hansen and the Atrium, a local nonprofit, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“Just trying to get this message out there in a very positive way,” Washington told the Bee. “A lot of people out here for the cause, everybody coming together for one thing and that’s unity.”
At least 300 people joined the effort, which in total took about five hours to complete, Washington later wrote in an Instagram post, sharing video and photos of the final product.
View this post on Instagram
TEAMWORK MADE THE DREAMWORK! SACRAMENTO, I tip my hat to you and will be forever grateful that y'all gave me this experience! With at least 300 helpers, we were able to finsh this in 5 hours! I'm still sore/ exhausted but hoping to make it to the rally at 10 am this morning. Big thank you to @guysonthegrid for waking up at 5 am to get this drone footage! You a blessing foreal! Big thank you for @atrium916 for the vision!!!!! Song: "Too Rough Around the Edges" Instrumental by Snake City. . . . #bamrtheartist #blm #blacklivesmatter
Roughly 80 miles southwest, local artists in Oakland also took to the streets, painting “#BlackLivesMatter” in futuristic yellow lettering on Sunday. Images of that mural, which covered three blocks, were retweeted by Oakland Democratic Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Watch Oakland artists and mural companies paint "Black Lives Matter" in the middle of the street on 15th Street & Broadway.
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) June 7, 2020
Meanwhile in North Carolina, Driver told the Raleigh News & Observer that she hopes the prominent “End Racism Now” message will inspire the city’s leaders to remove the nearby Confederate monuments that adorn the state capitol grounds.
“We did it. And it’s wonderful. And we feel really good about it. Our voices are being heard, but it’s not enough.” she said of the street painting. “What we want ultimately is for those statues to be removed.”