Words by Darius Dennis, crew member of I AM: A Series of Civil Rights and Racial Equity Murals painted across the US.
Days after George Floyd’s murder, I handed a twenty dollar bill to a cashier in Brooklyn to pay for my coffee and cigarettes. The cashier took the bill, looked at it under the light, and said, “A twenty dollar bill, mmmhmmm, a real one,” with a smile. Despite my face mask, he could still tell that his “joke” bugged me.
“Too soon?” he asked.
The next week I reached out online for a “wall that I can paint with full artistic freedom.” Chicago friends immediately replied, making it possible for my team and I to paint our first mural in Wicker Park: I AM A MAN, a 50’ tall by 15’ wide work, completed on June 29, 2020.
But we were not done.
I AM A MAN, Chicago
I AM SINGING, Louisville
“I AM SINGING” – a photograph now turned painting by Charlie Nunn and Jared Diaz shows people at The Great March on Washington of 1963. Its destiny is now to stand monumentally on a wall, to be taken in by the thousands every week. The image was captured by the notable Brooklyn born (later Chicagoan) photographer Danny Lyon, a known name from his implementation of new journalism photo documentation throughout some of the most historical moments of the civil rights era. A man who also was in collaboration with the then-president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis. Lewis became a notable Congressman and would continue to impact America for the rest of his life.
“I AM SINGING” was delicately placed on a 45 foot tall x 45 foot wide wall at the NIA Center, a prominent transportation hub in Louisville, KY, that we knew would permeate into the thoughts of travelers from all walks of life. With that notion, we were exposed enough to catch the eye of photographer Danny Lyon before the beginning of this production. Danny’s approval has sparked a symbiotic friendship, transitioning these moments in time and bringing them back into the moving fabric of today.
I AM SINGING, Louisville
The events that have transpired have not passed themselves across our team as anything less than an elaborate string of spectacles. The overall vision is endless, takes many forms, and covers historical moments we’d love to help evolve into monuments. This is exactly where we are supposed to be.
We finished “SINGING” on August 18.
We are still not done. Today we need your help in contacting nonprofits, universities, museums, philanthropic organizations, art collectors, activists and supporters that can fund this larger than life tribute to Congressman John Lewis. Join us in making something incredible for Congressman Lewis and the city of Rochester!
Final shots of the John Lewis mural in Rochester.
Thank you for your time, dedication, and encouragement. We look forward to your inquiries, honest responses, and feedback.
Let’s keep walking together. We are not done.
Love and more love,
Organizer and Painter
The “I AM” Series