As mass protests continue nationwide against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, Brooklyn officials unveiled a new “Black Lives Matter” mural along the newly co-named “Black Lives Matter Boulevard” in Downtown Brooklyn on Friday.
The demonstration — which included a live painting of the mural, and more than a dozen speeches by local elected officials and advocates — was capped with the uncovering of the new street sign at the corner of Court and Joralemon streets. The new additions will serve as a reminder not only to passersby, but more importantly to judges, legislators and other decision-makers working out of nearby buildings that Black lives matter, speakers said.
“When we come together and we’re painting on these streets, it’s not just a symbolism to look at — it’s for these judges, for these police officers, for these court officers to realize who matters as they walk inside these buildings,” said Beckford, who took the stage with his daughter, Harmony, who is the president of the youth chapter of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn. “Because, at the end of the day, the system was not built to empower us, but we will be empowered to make sure it works for us.”
Iesha Sekou, founder of Street Corner Resources, said she would be “remiss” if she only celebrated Friday. “I’m a mother, and a grandmother. I have a 23-year-old grandson and every time — not just when he comes to New York, but particularty when he comes here — I worry about his interaction when he leaves the house, whether or not he’s going to have interactions with the police and whether or not he’s going to return back home.”
While recent police reforms are a step in the right direction, Sekou — who founded Street Corner Resources to help eliminate gun violence in 2005 — said she and other activists cannot act “like all is well.”
“All is not well,” she said. “We cannot put a Band-Aid on a gushing wound.”
Assemblywoman and new Kings County Democratic County Committee Chair Rodneyse Bichotte echoed Sekou’s sentiments, lauding the recent ban on chokeholds, and the repeal of 50-a — a state law that often kept police disciplinary records a secret. But, she said, the city and state can — and must — go further, starting with ending racial profiling.
“In just a few moments, we’ll have turned our outrage over the murder of George Floyd — an unarmed Black man killed at the hands of law enforcement — into action,” said Bichotte, who recently made history as the first Black woman ever elected as chair of the Brooklyn Dems. “Last week, the people of New York City and State celebrated Juneteenth collectively for the first time in history … but it didn’t start or end there.”
Racism, Bichotte said, “isn’t exclusive to police.” It is embedded, rather, “in our society, in our culture,” she said. “It’s not just one silo thing.”
The mural — part of a series of Black Lives Matter street paintings that will be created around the city in support of the movement — is “a representation of how far we’ve gone and how we have yet to go,” Bichotte said.
Elected officials lent thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio — who missed the street corner unveiling but made it in time to pitch in with painting part of the mural — as well as the city’s Department of Transportation for helping to make the new mural and street co-naming a reality.
Borough President Eric Adams — who Beckford awarded a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, and commended as an honorary member of his chapter for his continuous advocacy — closed out a slate of emotional speeches with words about his time on the force, his experience as a Black man growing up in New York City, and of what must be done to move forward in unison.
The mural, he said, is “not a fad.”
“By putting ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the oldest governmental building in Brooklyn at the crossroads of the Supreme Court, the Criminal Court and where people come to make noise and ensure laws are carried out, we are saying in a very clear and pronounced way that every time you drive down this street as a judge, every time you walk this block as a lawyer, every time you visit this building to get a building permit that throws out Black and Brown people — you’re going to see that Black lives matter,” Adams said. “Every time you visit the Department of Education while our classrooms are segregated more now than ever, you’re gonna know Black lives matter. Every time you go to jury duty and make a determination on a sentence that is handed down more on Blacks than any other group, you’re gonna know Black lives matter.”
And, Adams added pointing behind him to Brooklyn Borough Hall, “every time you walk in this building and you see the first Black borough president, you’re gonna know Black lives matter.”
Other electeds in attendance included Assemblymembers Robert Carroll and Jo Anne Simon as well as Councilmembers Farah Louis and Stephen Levin.