Social Justice Street Art
Friday, June 18, 2021
From New York City to Oakland, CA, we can see street arts and murals reflecting the Black Lives Matter movement across reclaimed public spaces. For decades, graffiti and activism have gone hand-in-hand, and now, more than ever, street art is being used to propel the Black Lives Matter movement’s vision.
Communities have come together to raise awareness, express themselves, and educate the public through street art. "These [BLM] murals have become a symbol for the movement and the progress heralded in by waves of protests." (3)
Black Lives Matter murals and street art can help keep the message of change alive, and continue to spread this message to influence and create change. BLM art shows what is happening to real people in real-time.
BLM Street Art is a Form of Visual Activism
On Hamilton Avenue in the City of Palo Alto City, in front of city hall, you can view the 245-foot-long and 17-foot-tall vibrant street mural reflecting the global Black Lives Matter movement as seen through the eyes of 16 artists who contributed to the project.
"Together, the mural tries to mime the multitudinous effect of the simple, three-worded phrase shouted at protests, worn on T-shirts, and shared across social media platforms. All at once, it recalls the injustices Black people have been subjected to, the achievements they have made so far, the demands that still need to be met and that Black lives matter." (2)
The clear link between graffiti and activism has led to the creation of organizations that harness the art form’s power to work towards social change. For example, Cleveland’s Graffiti HeArt, led by Stamy Paul, aims to fund art scholarships and urban development projects within communities."(1)
How Do BLM Murals & Street Art Spread a Message?
Some people may argue that street art or murals depicting the BLM movement and police brutality does not accomplish anything, let alone change.
Here are some examples of how street art and public art spread the message, support the movement, and create positive change:
- Generates awareness and educates the public.
- Makes the hard conversations more visible.
- Represents the voices and artists of color within the community.
- Provides an outlet for communities to express themselves.
- Helps create organizations working toward social change.
- Acts as a reminder, keeping the movement in the forefront of our daily lives.
"In recent years, as the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum and protests occur internationally, graffiti has increasingly been used to propel its vision. The inherently political medium’s storytelling powers have become a way for communities to raise awareness, express themselves, and even educate the public." (1)
Street Art & Public BLM Art Remind Us the Fight is Not Over
To affect the change needed that the Black Lives Movement calls for, "conversations surrounding racism and oppression need to continue, particularly by those who are normally too distracted with day-to-day life and responsibilities (work, family, etc.).” (1) We need to stay engaged and committed to this movement, as well as continue to inspire and educate the next generation of activists.
"Street art and public art have always had a unique influence on ordinary people. Every day people are confronted, surprised, reminded, or inspired by the work they now find on their block, in their neighborhoods, and in the city’s downtowns. One discovers the art as if it were a part of the regular landscape. And now, in Oakland and New York City, it is. The streets are covered in colorful bold reminders of a new landscape, politically, socially, and emotionally." (3)
When protests lessen and the media stops paying attention, these beautiful, colorful, and emotional pieces of BLM street art will be left for the public to view and be reminded of the fight that must continue.
Walls of Justice Gallery Helps Spread a Message of Positive Change
Walls of Justice is an online gallery and community forum inspired by the peaceful demonstrations worldwide following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in May 2020. We hope our gallery helps spread a message of positive change, in the model of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, John Lewis, and Nelson Mandela.
"Images of hope, beauty, and diversity sit alongside pieces depicting social and racial injustices." (3) This gallery of street art and murals dedicated to social justice movements, including Black Lives Matter, helps spread a message of positive change. Is there a Black Lives Matter mural near you? Snap a picture and send us a photo using our online form!
You can learn more about how Walls of Justice began, view the Walls of Justice Gallery, or submit photos of street art and murals in your community focused on racial justice, social justice, positive reform in law enforcement, police accountability, and more!
1. Boyer, R. "How Graffiti Artists Are Propelling the Vision of the Black Lives Matter Movement". Artsy.net. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-graffiti-artists-propelling-vision-black-lives-matter-movement. 2020, 20 Jul.
2. Lee, L. "One message told 16 ways: Artists behind Black Lives Matter mural in Palo Alto ask what more will be done beyond street art". Palo Alto Weekly. https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/07/01/one-message-split-16-ways-artists-behind-black-lives-matter-mural-in-palo-alto-ask-what-more-will-be-done-beyond-street-art. 2020, 2 Jul.
3. Mychal, L. "How Street Art Keeps the Black Lives Matter Movement Alive". Arts Help. https://www.artshelp.net/how-street-art-keeps-the-black-lives-matter-movement-alive/. 2020, Jun.