Across the nation, cities are finding ways to stand in solidarity with their Black and brown residents, sometimes through art.
Community members in Harrisburg wanted to do the same. This past weekend a Black Lives Matter mural was painted on the side of the Harrisburg Improv Theatre on N. 3rd Street.
Local artist Mike Fitzgerald organized the mural in an effort to encourage dialogue as well as to spotlight the movement.
“This wasn’t about me, it was about all of us in the community,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s also about the social injustices that are plaguing this country.”
Fitzgerald remembered recently seeing “Black Lives Matter” spray-painted on the Harvey Taylor Bridge, before it was quickly painted over. He believed that, if it had said something else, it wouldn’t have triggered the fast response that it did.
That scene had the artist’s wheels turning, wondering how he could use art to share those three words in the city.
But without a wall, there’s no mural. Fitzgerald asked around on Facebook and, within days, the theater offered their wall and a group volunteered to help paint.
Over the course of two weeks, Fitzgerald and a small team came up with a design, primed the wall and painted the mural, which was completed on Saturday.
“I was very impressed working with people in the community,” he said. “It was a way for the community to be involved in a very physical and tangible way.”
To top off the painting, people wrote affirmations on the wall, signed their names in solidarity and added quotes from civil rights activists and authors.
“We won’t stop until justice is served!” “No justice, no peace” and “Our lives matter forever,” read a few of the notes.
Once finished, people driving by circled back around for another look, some stopped to take photos.
“It’s touching people,” Fitzgerald said. “But at the same time, we’ve gotten threats.”
He explained that, within the mural’s short life, people have already threatened to destroy it and have sent the group negative feedback and hateful messages.
According to Fitzgerald, that only gives him energy.
“Buttons have to be pushed,” he said.
The official unveiling of the Black Lives Matter mural is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m.
Fitzgerald said that he is looking at the possibility of doing another similar mural in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg. However, he is still looking for a location.
For now, he’s just glad that he could complete this one successfully.
“I think in my heart and soul that I’ve done something good for us to open up and start dialogue,” he said.
The Black Lives Matter mural is located at 1633 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg.