Protect the Black Lives Matter Mural of Palo Alto

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As a black woman who moved to this city from the South, I am familiar with monuments and public art that honor Generals who fought to keep Black people enslaved, but not many that give Black people a sense of empowerment and belonging.  After being surrounded by streets, schools and statues named after people who disregarded Black lives, I felt a sense of belonging standing in front of the Black Lives Matter mural in Palo Alto - it took my breath away. 

Seeing the mural on the very same street of the Juneteenth protest that I spoke at gave me a small sense of hope that maybe we were finally being heard. Hearing the stories of being Black in Palo Alto during the protest made me realize that racism also persists here. This mural symbolizes the beginning of a conversation about racism in our city and signals that we might be ready to take the first step in addressing systemic racism. The art itself acts as a beacon to those who have been here their entire lives, but never felt like they belonged. 

Despite the fact that this mural has become a symbol of hope for the community, a week later the City opened the street that the mural is on and failed to put any protective coating on it. As you read this right now, it’s exposed to the elements and the paint is being erased by cars that drive over it.

It's hard not to interpret these actions as performative and dismissive and it is apparent that there is no intention of preserving the mural at all. On top of that, the Palo Alto Police Officers Association is more preoccupied with artist Cece Carpio’s rendition of Assata Shakur, ironically whose case does not align with the police report, than with taking steps to mend their relationship with the Black community. This is troubling and shows they have no intention of listening. 

Palo Alto is known for having thought provoking, city commissioned public art, and it is disheartening that we are unable to preserve a mural that is so meaningful. Allowing this mural to be painted and then immediately allowing it to be ruined effectively tells Black Palo Altans “we are doing the bare minimum to say we care, but we really don’t.” This has been one of few steps that the city has taken to mend the relationship with Black Palo Altans and we must protect this mural. Providing sealant a handful of times is a beginning step and should not be one that requires a petition. 

Join me in signing this petition to protect the Black Lives Matter mural in Palo Alto.