Indiana Avenue mural is celebration of Black joy, Black Lives Matter organizers say

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Saturday afternoon, Black Lives Matter was spelled out through 18 different works of art painted by 18 Black artists on a stretch of Indiana Avenue, an area historically connected to the Black community of Indianapolis.

“So this is an opportunity for us to not only reclaim Black Lives Matter as a movement, but also to reclaim the land,” Indy10 Black Lives Matter’s Jessica Louise said. “We have high-rise apartments coming up on one side, IUPUI is down the street as well, so this is basically our stamp saying that this still belongs to us.”

The Indiana Avenue District is home to the Madam C.J. Walker Theatre Center and the first Black-owned business in Indianapolis. In 1865, Samuel G. Smother opened a grocery store and, later in 1879, The Indianapolis Leader was the first African-American-owned newspaper in the city, according to Visit Indy.

The street painting in Indianapolis runs along Indiana Avenue from Paca Street to the intersection with West Street, where the Indiana Historical Bureau in 1994 erected a sign saying, “African Americans, by the 1890s, had established a vibrant social, commercial, and economic community along Indiana Avenue. Black entertainers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and working people developed the Avenue into a thriving, widely-known neighborhood of theaters, jazz clubs, stores, offices, and residences.”

Indy10 says there are plenty of problems in America still, but Saturday’s work was being used as a celebration.

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“This one day, we can shift away from the focus of sadness and the feelings of despair that come along with justice work and that we can focus on this mural and on the Black artists who are here and on the communities that we are looking forward to continuing to serve,” Louise said.

Aliyaa Hull is one of the young voices making herself heard. She’s not an official artist but decided to try her hand at adding to the mural with sidewalk chalk because of how passionate she feels.

“That’s not fair because in the world, Black lives are not getting treated the right way,” 8-year-old Hull said.

Her dad is one of the artists contributing to the mural with a depiction of slavery. Aliyaa wants to do the same.

“A long time ago, they were getting mistreated and that was just not OK to me,” Hull said. “So I just had to draw that, so all the Black people and all the white people can just … it’ll put a piece into the puzzle to get everybody balanced.”

To finally reach that balance, Indy10 says they need to be proactive, including painting the mural themselves instead of waiting for the Department of Public Works to do it. They want to let government officials know they’re still here and making progress.

“We will not be derailed,” Louise said. “We will not be distracted, and this land truly is ours.”

Indy10 Black Lives Matter says they’re prepared to touch up the mural every day with paint if it gets vandalized to make sure it sticks around.