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Kansas City Artists And Hundreds Of Volunteers Send Powerful Black Lives Matter Message From The Streets

Julie Denesha
The KC Art on the Block project drew hundreds of volunteers Saturday to complete six unique Black Lives Matter murals in different parts of the city.

Hundreds of volunteers spread out across Kansas City Saturday to transform streets with six Black Lives Matter murals. Photographer Julie Denesha focused on one mural, at 63rd & Troost, and two of the commissioned artists.

The sun was blazing and heat rose from the asphalt at 63rd and Troost streets on Saturday as volunteers used rollers and brushes to fill in big, block letters: “Black Lives Matter” marched down the street in purple, black, yellow, white and green.

In a single day, six local artists and hundreds of volunteers helped transform six different Kansas City streets, spread out across the metro area. Instead of focusing on the deaths of Black men at the hands of police, people painted and dreamed.

“It's important that the murals happen because it is telling our children your lives matter," said Warren Harvey, one of the artists. "You see these killings and you see all these things being said. But it's a reminder your life matters.”

Volunteers Paint To Create Black Lives Matter Mural at 63rd and Troost

The project was commissioned and organized by KC Art on the Block, along with the Urban League of Greater Kansas City and the city.

Alexandria Conaway, 13, attends Center Middle School and volunteered for the project.

“I’m working on the ‘B’ for Black Lives Matter," Conaway said. "I’m not going to stop saying it because it’s a great thing to do.”

Conaway said the project has been a way for her to help out.

“It feels good because we’ve been through a lot this year," Conaway said. "So it’s good to help the community and do something. It’s powerful.”

Yvette Sabur is Harvey’s mom. She volunteered too, and made sure everyone got plenty of water.

“When he said he was doing this I was so thrilled and proud, Sabur said of her son, "because this is his place to represent what our culture means to us."

Harvey said the murals are a way for Black artists to their mark on the city.

Julie Denesha
Painter Warren Harvey is one of six artists commissioned to design Black Lives Matter murals on Kansas City streets. Harvey's Midtown studio is filled with his latest work.

“Artistic expression is alive in my community," Harvey said. "So that's why it's important for me to do what I'm doing because people see it."

"It’s showing that black artists is here and that we're present. The more we create, the more we are heard. The more we’re seen.”

Art needs to bring people together," Harvey said.

“Art lives in your heart and the more the world looks like it’s lacking love the more we need to step up,” Harvey said.

Julie Denesha
Harvey adds a detail to a painting.

Across town, another mural was created at Northwest Briarcliff Parkway and North Mulberry Drive. This one was designed by Harold Smith, who sat beneath the shade of a tree, watching words and colors take shape on the street.

Julie Denesha
Artist Harold Smith takes a break after an afternoon of painting in his home studio in Kansas City, Kansas. His 2019 solo show at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art featured expressive paintings of Black men.

Smith’s added a few words from Martin Luther King Jr.: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Smith is a painter who lives in Kansas City, Kansas. His 2019 solo show at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, featured expressive paintings of Black men.

"Being a black man in America is this complex narrative of all these juxtaposing forces," Smith said. "So I try to reflect that. But not only that, capture some of the dilemma, the emotional wear and tear of it.”

In all of his artwork, Smith said his goal is to make people think.

“You're hopeful that it will change somebody’s life, somebody may be more sensitive," says Smith. "But, you know, it's not gonna change the whole world. But, you know, if it does help one person to see things a little bit better, then it has changed the world.”

The murals are located:

  • Briarcliff Parkway & North Mulberry Drive.
  • Baltimore Avenue & 10th Street.
  • 18th & Vine Streets.
  • Troost Avenue & 31st Street.
  • Brookside Boulevard & 63rd Street.
  • Meyer Boulevard & Troost Avenue.
Julie Denesha is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Kansas City. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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