New Bloomington mural, planned renaming of street both send same message: Black Lives Matter

Last week came the announcement that a Bloomington task force has recommended new names for two parts of Jordan Avenue, a north-south street that splits the Indiana University campus.

In its report, the task force recommended renaming Jordan Avenue south of 17th Street as Eagleson Avenue.

North of 17th Street, the street is recommended to be called Fuller Lane.

Both names honor the contributions of Black residents to Bloomington.

The announcement of the task force report came just a month after the installation of a “Black Lives Matter” mural—on the street that is now slated to be renamed for four-generations of the Eagleson family, starting with Halson Vashon Eagleson who was born a slave in 1851.

According to the task force report, Halson Eagleson arrived in Bloomington in the 1880s and became a prominent barber. His five children attended Indiana University. The report describes how in 1910, he opened Industrial City, a home for “colored” orphans in Unionville.

Joa’Quinn Griffin, an Indiana University student who helped lead the effort to install the street mural, told The B Square that the choice of Jordan Avenue was deliberate, for two reasons.

First, the mural would provide a counterpoint to the legacy of the past IU president for whom the street was named. David Starr Jordan was a proponent of eugenics, which advocates for the improvement of the human species through selective mating.

Second, the place on Jordan Avenue selected for the mural installation is in front of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

The street mural was conceived over a year ago, when Griffin saw a “Black Lives Matter” flag at the Indiana Memorial Union that was not as visible as the other flags were. Correcting that situation, to make the BLM flag more conspicuous, was straightforward, Griffin said. It was fixed the next day.

That experience led him to work on the BLM mural. He partnered up with Black Collegians, a group led by Tiera Howleit.

Griffin and Howleit were both wielding paint brushes on the morning of July 5, when The B Square dropped by the work site. At that point the mural was mostly done but still needed the remaining hours in the day to be completed.

Howleit has written a column about the mural for the Indiana Daily Student’s Black Voices section.

Howleit lays out in her piece why the mural looks the way it does: “Black people are not monolithic and our identities intertwine with many others. These different identities all conjoined with one another form an identity based on intersectionality.”

The column continues, “As a result, each letter represents a different marginalized community. From body positivity to Islamophobia, anyone can walk up to the mural and identity with at least one of the letters and feel seen.”

One example of the way the mural includes different marginalized communities is the “font” for the letter “K” in the word “Black.” It is rendered as the hand-shape for “K” in the finger-spelled alphabet from American Sign Language.

The task force that recommended the new names for Jordan Avenue was appointed by Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton. The task force’s report describes the reason a new name was sought for Jordan Avenue: “The views of David Starr Jordan on eugenics and racial differences conflict also with the City’s commitment to promote inclusion and equity in the community…” The task force started its work in April.

It’s the city plan commission that has the final word on street renaming in Bloomington.  The earliest the renaming of Jordan Avenue would be on a plan commission meeting agenda is Aug. 9, the date of the commission’s next regular meeting.

Photos: BLM Mural Painting (July 5, 2021)

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