Originally in The Hive, Brooklyn: I was going to be upset about the graffiti that appeared on the fire escape of my home this past Monday. There was a bunch of spelling mistakes and weird stuff to add texture. I was going to have a conversation with my neighbors about how this should be a topic of discussion and debate. I even tried to draw up a few thoughtful commentaries on the subject before painting my neighborhood, but was unable to finish those when I came out that morning.
Instead, when I got out of bed Tuesday morning to find a stark white-and-black open letter on the fire escape, I simply felt relieved that I didn’t have to rehash the issue once again.
If you didn’t see it by now, I’m so sorry.
If you did, though, you probably already know that the Black Lives Matter organization recently found themselves the subject of a mural in Brooklyn that had been painted over by the landlord (who is accused of bullying tenants into paying out-of-pocket deposits if they don’t want their names on a rental agreement) and covered up with tarpaulin.
The police responded to the call and found that a small corner of the chalkboard had been painted over. They also discovered the Brooklyn graffiti artist Jake Lipschultz, who is responsible for the mural, had written, “Cop kill them all” on a nearby wall.
Not a real question, by the way, but surely a sign of the times.
Photo by Jake Lipschultz. Original defaced: black lives matter mural mural by Jake Lipschultz, a blogger.
My concerns were that the artists behind the mural had never done any harm. I’ve been meeting and meeting with many of them, who are staunch pro-black activists and black leaders who refuse to slavishly follow the voices of those who subvert the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve met with folks from the organization SPARK, who helped craft the mural and maintain its integrity, the guys who painted the mural, the guys who created a teaser for the mural in case it were to be defaced, etc.
I’ve even set up a meeting with my City Council representative, Justin Brannan, to get the proper resources, funding, and legal options. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to ask: the tenants in the building and the residents, what do they want? To have a more transparent history of the case? To get on with their lives? To have a damn neighbor come by for a glass of milk at 11:30 in the morning?
A quick browse of Brannan’s Facebook page showed how busy he is, and I decided that it’d be impossible to convince him to get involved in this. He seemed more content with posting about his recent political outings and clearly didn’t want to devote his entire attention to a single issue of concern. But someone else did this past Sunday.
Kimberly Schnitzer posted:
On Friday I worked with #BLM to take the mural down. The landlord was [calling] it “disturbing” and refusing to get a permit (not allowing a public art project to take place). Protesters were gathered and agreed it is defacing. He finally agreed, but didn’t show up with city cops to have the mural defaced. This was a personal decision. I have worked with BKN for over 5 years and have had many political discussions with this group and their organizers. I don’t want them silenced and have known them personally over the years. They are good organizers. I also realize that this incident doesn’t help BKN’s cause in the sense that it will be a point of discussion, which they have been working so hard to avoid.
It’s what I’d want from my representatives, regardless of who they are. I guess we’ll see what happens in that case. I hope to see more of the activists I’ve met become involved in issues like this in the future, because it’s our jobs as citizens to ensure that the voices of marginalized communities are heard, and that issues such as gentrification don’t get left behind with an ocean of cynicism.