On September 5, 2020, six Black Lives Matter street murals were painted on six streets across the breadth of Kansas City, Missouri, to raise crucial awareness of the newest upsurge in police brutality and racially motivated violence against people of color in the U.S. Six murals, designed by six Black artists. Art and activism beautifully intersecting. Sponsored by KC Art on the Block, the Troost Market Collective, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, and the City of Kansas City, MO, this multi-location happening was an inspiring community call-to-action. Here is what I was able to capture of this magnificent event. It was, at times, searing, loving, powerful, and sobering.
I recently moved from Los Angeles to Kansas City, the first move of this kind that I’ve ever made. My love affair with my new town seems to be unfolding one magnificent petal at a time, as the specter of Covid still lurks, and, yes, it was a very strange time to make such a move. And because of that, is it EVER taking its sweet, skillful time to unfold for me. Even showing me just how unskillful I can sometimes be. Life lessons. Firm but gentle. A loving parent.
So, for just a moment, keep my Black Lives Matter trek from last week in mind, as I tell you this other story.
Years ago, I read a very fun article about the “Most Unique Buildings In the Country.” One of those buildings featured in the article was a public library (honestly, years later, I couldn’t remember which city this was in; I just powerfully remembered the building). This library was built (or perhaps painted) like a giant book shelf of literary classics. To Kill a Mockingbird. Fahrenheit 451. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Huckleberry Finn. Dickens, Kafka, Zora Neale Hurston, Lao Tzu, Langston Hughes, etc. A unique work of art. I always swore I’d visit this building one day.
Let’s now go back to last weekend, September 5th. When I got home from this incredible day, this incredible intersection of art and activism, I was excited to get all my photos and video files uploaded into my computer, so I could make the little docu-short above. I was moved to share this experience with others. I’m not a filmmaker, but I do love making little shorts with my phone and some editing software.
As I was going through all the footage, there came a moment when I suddenly saw THE BUILDING … In my footage … Right there in front of the very first Black Lives Matter mural I visited that day. I gasped audibly. And experienced one of those moments I always deeply cherish; being filled with absolute wonder at gifts randomly given. But I was also just as eye-rolling and critical of my own stunning unconsciousness.
I had been standing right in front of the damned thing, but was SO focused and singular on what I was there to see that I never even looked up to notice this landmark building literally towering over me, creating symbolic protective shade on this art installment, and me. Nor had I had any remembrance from years before that Kansas City had been where this landmark was.
I have never slapped my forehead so proverbially hard in my life. For years now (especially as a writer), I have prided myself on being a keen observer. Well, as they say: “If it was a snake….”
So, that has got to win some kind of award for DUH Story of the Year.
At least I now get the pleasure, the utter honor, to re-frame my new city in my brain as not only being host to these extraordinary events and being a part of the solution instead of the problem, but it is also the home of my favorite landmark building, and is only ten minutes from where I live. I am truly blessed!
That is, if I can remember to keep my eyes open, and my tank full.
Oh yeah, and Black Lives Matter.