By Patrick Donachie
On the corner of 200th and Hollis avenues in St. Albans, a group of artists worked in the blistering sun last week on a mural celebrating the music, message and legacy of the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Jocelyn Goode, the founder of the Founder of CultureCocoa ArtHouse, designed the mural, and it is the second one in a series that began with a mural in honor of Run DMC two blocks away.
“The idea is to keep it going, to highlight the hip-hop legacy in the area,” Goode said. “The idea is to put the artwork in proximity, so people can go from one to the next.”
The mural celebrating A Tribe Called Quest consists of five different illustrations, designed to appear as consecutive frames on vintage film strip. In September 2015, the owner of the Fine Fare Supermarket approached Goode about creating a mural on the vacant side of his storefront, and work on the mural began July 1. Goode is working with two teaching artists as well as five apprentices whom she recruited after working on a mural at the Cornerstone Community Center.
Goode secured grants from the Queens Council on the Arts and the Citizens Committee for New York City to fund the creation of the mural. She walked along the completed frames, detailing the contents of each. The first frame featured a portrait of Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor, who died earlier this year, surrounded by imagery of the Zulu Nation. Goode said she had planned the mural prior to his death.
“My thinking is why wait until people die to honor them?” she said. “It just made it more pressing. It validated the need for the project.”
The second slide was a portrait of a different mural that is situated beneath the St. Albans Long Island Rail Road station on Linden Boulevard. Goode said the frame was a dual act of ‘homage’ for famous musicians from southeast Queens, as well as the previous artists of murals in the area. Goode said the St. Albans mural was an inspiration for her from a young age.
“I would drive past it,” she said, “and it made me want to paint murals.”
Another slide showed a young girl playing a drum surrounded by portraits of seminal books by black authors, including “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” HAllAMODA, one of the two teaching artists, said the mural would honor the authors by highlighting their prominence in history.
“They were very controversial when they came out,” he said, and pointed out the center image. “The girl in the middle is tying it all together with music.”
Goode said she hoped to fund a Salt-n-Pepa mural after the completion of the mural celebrating A Tribe Called Quest. She offered a photo of the original four members of the group that would be the basis for the final frame in the mural. She said she hoped the mural would embolden artists and other members of the community.
“Even in being displaced, how do you find who you are? Public artwork can validate you, even when society says you don’t matter,” she said. “Art is a reminder that you matter, that you’re here.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona