On June 5, when D.C.’s mayor, Muriel Bowser announced “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” and she debuted a bold street mural reading “Black Lives Matter,” on the street used to access The White House, she re-energized a movement. Since this time, murals have been popping up on streets around the country. The city of Prairie View has teamed up with Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University to paint University Drive. The historically-Black institution released the following statement:
PRAIRIE VIEW – Sandra Bland Parkway, or University Drive, is the latest thoroughfare in the U.S. to feature the mural “Black Lives Matter” on its pavement. Students, faculty, and staff from Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) began work on the mural earlier this week, wrapping up just in time for Juneteenth. The project, a collaboration with the City of Prairie View, was initiated at the request of Mayor David Allen.
Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag and movement in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Black teen Trayvon Martin. Its main goal is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.” The movement returned to national headlines last month following the on-camera death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Black Lives Matter in Prairie View
Each letter of Prairie View’s Black Lives Matter mural stands 12-feet wide and 19-feet tall, with three-feet of spacing in between.
“Black Lives Matter is painted on both sides of the street, so students and alumni, leaving and coming into [the PVAMU] campus can read it and know that, in Prairie View, we’re doing our part to spread the message,” said Allen. “It solidifies the fact that we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired; we’re not going to leave racial profiling unaddressed.”
Honoring Sandra Bland
A birds-eye view of the block-long mural puts it in front of the spot where Bland, a PVAMU alumna, was pulled over in 2015 by a DPS trooper for not signaling a lane change. She was arrested, and her death in jail three days later fueled nationwide outrage. Supporters disputed her cause of death and alleged racial violence.
A few months later, Prairie View renamed the road after Bland and proposed a city park in her honor. Fellow alumna, Vida Brown, created a memorial, which has since grown and transformed over the years.
“I think the mural adds to the mission of doing whatever we can to continue her memory,” Brown said.
“I wanted the Black Lives Matter mural to be centered on where I saw Sandra Bland get handcuffed and arrested in memory of her. How she responded to the DPS Officer by simply exercising her rights was misunderstood by some. This mural will forever speak for her and tell the world, ‘Sandra Bland’s Life Mattered,’” said Allen.
Protesting for Change
Last week, several hundred PVAMU students led a march in front of the same spot, down Sandra Bland Parkway, to the Waller County jail. Their pleas were also calls for changes within the law enforcement system.
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