A handful of elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, joined community leaders in Jamaica on Thursday, July 30, to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on Jamaica Avenue between 150th and 153rd streets. In addition to the mural, a new street sign now rests at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street that reads “Black Lives Matter Avenue.”
The mural is one of several to be painted on streets across the city — including one in Manhattan, painted on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower that has been vandalized multiple times.
“A lot of us were there at Trump Tower sending that message to someone who really needed to get it and still needs to get it,” de Blasio said. “Now we’re sending a message here in Queens.”
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As de Blasio painted alongside community members, a crowd around them chanted “Black lives matter.”
Hizzoner added that the painting was a “kickoff to something bigger.”
“When we all agree to take money from the NYPD budget and put it into the youth programs and recreation centers and summer youth employment, that is a part of change,” the mayor said. “When we reform the relationship between police and community that is part of change. When we create a commission to literally identify every element of structural racism in our government and end it. Change those laws and policies.”
Councilman I. Daneek Miller said the mural marks a space for members of the community to come and discuss the issues that effect them in the coming week.
“This is where we will have public discourse about our community, full week of activities, to talk about health care, education, religion, we talk about the arts and culture. We will talk about our legacy in this community and it is important that everyone come out and take part in our activities,” Miller said.
The plan to paint Black Lives Matter murals across city streets came during the height of the George Floyd protests in New York City.
Among the protesters’ demands was a $1 billion cut to the NYPD’s budget. While the City Council and mayor said their June 30 budget met those demands, many said the cuts were not sufficient.
Director of Organizing for VOCAL-NY Jawanza Williams said at the time that the organization was “appalled” by the city’s leaders “deceptive decisions,” lack of transparency and “stonewalling” in the face of national call for racial justice and police reform.
About $400 million of NYPD’s $1 billion cuts came from moving school safety officers to the Department of Education despite the department already sending the NYPD $300 million a year to run the school safety program. The city also reduced NYPD overtime by $350 million to reach the $1 billion goal.
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman’s Chief of Staff Tunisia Morrison mentioned that the painting of the mural on Thursday was not the ending the Black Lives Matter movement hoped to achieve, but stated that it is progress nonetheless.
“It is clear to us, on this day, as we paint this, this is not systemic change, but it is gratitude and that is what we are out here for. Black power, strength, resiliency, and that is what we are doing here today,” Morrison said.
Additional reporting by Dean Moses.