Toronto artists "Paint the City Black" as tribute to George Floyd, anti-racism movement

Jun 8 2020, 11:33 am

Over 30 graffiti artists came together in Toronto’s Graffiti Alley to take part in the “Paint The City Black” event on Saturday.

The event was a “pieceful” protest where artists created multiple murals to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

One of the murals illustrates the words “I Can’t Breathe,” which were some of the last words said by George Floyd, a Black man who died after he was heard repeatedly saying that he cannot breathe while being held down by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Another says “Breonna Taylor,” an EMT from Louisville who was shot and killed in her apartment in March.

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“I CAN’T BREATHE” – My piece for the #paintthecityblack jam that I helped organize alongside @_________moises @artofphade & @nick_sweetman . I want to say thank you to everyone that came out on Saturday. You made this day possible and a success. It was a great day seeing everyone united, rocking their pieces for a larger and more important purpose. I hope that through Saturday we made even a small difference, but we still have a long way to go. It was also really cool seeing the diversity of people who came to the event. Most of these people wouldn’t be found on the same wall together normally, so that added a special moment for myself. I want to also say thank you to the people who donated. If you haven’t donated, or weren’t able to on Saturday, you can find the link to some of the initiatives we support in a secondary image I’ve posted. Stay strong everyone, in times like these we need more days like Saturday. 🖤✊🏽 #blacklivesmatter

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The event was organized by Jessey James, Nick Sweetman, and two other artists known as @blazeworks and @_________moises on Instagram.

Some of the artists took to social media – prior to the event – to explain exactly what the event was for.

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In this together 🖤 #paintthecityblack

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“As graffiti artists, writers, and muralists working in the public realm, let us come together and rock a black piece in solidarity with Black lives and against the ongoing injustice that this community continues to face. If you want to be involved, paint a legal spot, re-do a spot, or offer space to an artist of colour,” said one of the artists on Instagram.

It was encouraged by artists to donate to bail funds or support systems and to use personal protective equipment while painting.

Adriano Clark, known as @freetherevolution on Instagram, attended the event to provide music for artists as they created their pieces.

Nick Sweetman took to social media to showcase the murals that were created and provide more information on why the event took place.

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🖤BLACK LIVES MATTER🖤 The last two weeks have been agony as we have watched more black people in the US get murdered by police and an increasingly militarized response to legitimate protests against the brutality, with the president doing all he can to fan the flames. In the face of this kind of pain it is not always easy to see how art can make a real substantive difference. I hope that by showing we care about this, myself and the other artists who painted the city black this weekend have helped inspire the changes we need, though obviously the systemic racism that pervades every layer of society will require much more than murals. The Black Panther Party was a revolutionary socialist political organization founded by Marxist college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California. The party was active in the US until 1982 with chapters in numerous cities, in the UK and even Algeria. At its birth the BPP’s core practice was its open carry armed citizens' patrols ("copwatching") to monitor the behavior of Oakland Police Department officers and challenge police brutality in the city. They were hailed as revolutionaries and also criticized as violent terrorists. My reason for painting this panther is to evoke the beauty of blackness, but to also reference this violent history as a symbol of proud black resistance to police oppression. I do not advocate using guns on anyone, but I can easily understand the need to fight back when your people are being murdered in the streets with impunity by those sworn to protect and serve. When you are forced to choose between survival and non-violence the choice is easy. Thank you to @_________moises @blazeworks and @artofphade for organizing this powerful event with no funding whatsoever and very little time – this was truly a show of what is possible when motivated artists believe in a cause. I encourage all artists of all races and backgrounds to stand with us and #paintthecityblack wherever you are to show your support, and anyone else to help by donating (swipe all the way right) to one of these important initiatives. #blackpanthers #panther #sweetman

A post shared by Nick Sweetman (@nick_sweetman) on

“The last two weeks have been agony as we have watched more Black people in the US get murdered by police and an increasingly militarized response to legitimate protests against the brutality, with the president doing all he can to fan the flames. In the face of this kind of pain, it is not always easy to see how art can make a real substantive difference. I hope that by showing we care about this, myself and the other artists who painted the city black this weekend have helped inspire the changes we need, though obviously the systemic racism that pervades every layer of society will require much more than murals,” he said.

Paint the City Black took place on the same day as crowds marched through the city of Toronto to protest anti-black racism.

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