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.

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

Gathering at People’s Park for Kirkwood Avenue: All over the road

A little more than a year ago, on Juneteenth of 2020, the mural at People’s Park at the east end of Kirkwood Avenue got a new, unsanctioned overlay of lettering that reads “Black Lives Matter.”

That came during a summer of protests, nationwide and locally, prompted by the killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

The overlay remains in place, because the Bloomington Arts Commission was not in a rush to “buff” the mural or to replace it with a different one, even if that’s likely in the cards at some point.

On Thursday evening, Eva Allen’s original mural, together with the “Black Lives Matter” lettering, gave an extra pop of background color to park visitors who were weaving together floral crowns from bunches of flowers.

The crowns of flowers were a “make and take” hosted by Downtown Bloomington, Inc.—something the DBI normally includes at its “Taste of Bloomington” event. The annual gathering, for thousands to gather and sample local food offerings, was transformed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It became a take-out only affair called “Taste of Bloomington to Go.”

Thursday’s park gathering covered a lot of civic territory—networking for the hospitality industry, a celebration of new light strands strung over Kirkwood, remarks from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, and the regular People’s Park concert series.

Like the new lights, the event was a bit “all over the road.” Continue reading “Gathering at People’s Park for Kirkwood Avenue: All over the road”

Column: “Black Lives Matter” on a street mural is not a phrase for feeling good, but doing good

On Saturday, Bloomington’s second “Black Lives Matter” street mural was painted on 6th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street. That’s the north end of the courthouse square.

The first one was painted on Elm Street.

The lead artists on the project were Raheem Elmore and Christina Elem. Elmore is working on a dual doctorate in English and African American and African diaspora studies at Indiana University. Elem is graduating from IU this year and taking a job with the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation.

The completion of Bloomington’s second “Black Lives Matter” mural surely counts as a win. Elmore and Elem did great work as lead artists. It was city staff from several departments and about 45 rank-and-file volunteers from the community who came together on Saturday morning to make the mural happen.

It’s a moment to feel good.

But the mural’s backstory includes a reminder that how good we feel about seeing and saying the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is not a great way to measure the impact of that phrase on our community.

Here’s a glimpse into that backstory.

Continue reading “Column: “Black Lives Matter” on a street mural is not a phrase for feeling good, but doing good”

“Black Lives Matter” street mural work put off by morning rain, day still not a washout

Raheem Elmore spray paints outlines for letters in the street mural that will read “Black Lives Matter” as Fogg looks on. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

Saturday morning’s wet weather did not mean a complete washout for work on a downtown Bloomington “Black Lives Matter” mural.

By around 11 a.m. on Saturday, a slight misting drizzle had turned into a legitimate light rain, puddling the pavement along the block of 6th Street, on the north side of Bloomington’s downtown courthouse square.

That’s where the planned painting of Bloomington’s second “Black Lives Matter” street mural was set to take place through the day, with volunteers working 45-minute shifts.

Anticipating that the pavement would not dry out in time to complete work, even if the rain stopped, a decision was made to waive off the volunteers for Saturday and try for a backup rain date.

Clad in coveralls at the site on Saturday morning, Sean Starowitz, Bloomington’s assistant director for the arts, told The Square Beacon that the tentative backup date has now been set for June 5. That’s a few weeks later than one announced earlier.

By around 5 p.m., the rain had stopped and the pavement had pretty much dried out.

It was dry enough that one of the artists leading the project, Raheem Elmore, wanted to try to spray paint the outlines of the block letters for the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. Continue reading ““Black Lives Matter” street mural work put off by morning rain, day still not a washout”

“Black Lives Matter” street mural gets OK from board of public works, to be painted Saturday

At its Tuesday meeting, Bloomington’s board of public works cleared the way for the painting of a second “Black Lives Matter” street mural on Saturday.

The board approved the use of the public right-of-way on the block of 6th Street between Walnut Street and College Avenue, the north leg of the courthouse square.

The street will be blocked off to vehicle traffic for 14 hours on Saturday (April 17), from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

It will be the second such mural to be painted on a Bloomington street. The first was painted last year on the north-south segment of Elm Street next to the Banneker Community Center. That painting work, done by 83 community volunteers, was led by artists Christina Elem and Raheem Elmore, according to a city of Bloomington news release. Continue reading ““Black Lives Matter” street mural gets OK from board of public works, to be painted Saturday”

Monroe County commissioners OK contract with BLM Bloomington for anti-racism training, don’t require other electeds to take it

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $6,000 agreement with Black Lives Matter Bloomington for a day of anti-racism training next year.

The six-hour day of training by eight BLM facilitators is currently scheduled for Jan. 30, 2021. But that date could change by agreement between the commissioners and BLM.

Also at their Wednesday meeting, the commissioners approved revisions to the Monroe County personnel manual that, among other items, address the kind of training that will be provided by BLM. It won’t require elected officials to take BLM’s training.

Commissioners had postponed the revisions to the personnel manual from the previous week. Some wording in an initially proposed added section had caused county councilors to amend the 2021 salary ordinances. The councilors’ amendment tied the ordinances to the personnel manual as it stood, before any revisions were made.

The initial revision had read: “[A]ll elected officials and full time employees will be required to participate in a training…”

The version approved by commissioners on Wednesday reads: “[A]ll full time, non-law enforcement, employees, with the exception of those working under the authority of the Prosecutor and Board of Judges, will be required to participate in training.” Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners OK contract with BLM Bloomington for anti-racism training, don’t require other electeds to take it”

Split votes on race-related topics by city, county electeds

Wednesday is the usual meeting day for two local elected bodies—Bloomington’s city council and Monroe County’s board of commissioners. This week they each approved legislation involving anti-racist efforts.

The city council approved a resolution endorsing a proposal for art featuring the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

The county commissioners approved a $292,500 contract with a consultant to provide diversity training.

Both approvals came without the full support of the elected groups. In a rare non-unanimous vote on the three-member county board, commissioner Penny Githens dissented on the approval of the diversity training contract.

On the city council, Dave Rollo abstained from the vote on the art project, which left the proposal with eight of nine city councilmembers in support of it.

Continue reading “Split votes on race-related topics by city, county electeds”

People’s Park mural will say “BLACK LIVES MATTER” at least through August, maybe a few months longer

cropped 2020-06-26 BLM mural IMG_3349
On June 19, 2020, the “Welcome to Bloomington, you belong here” mural at People’s Park in Bloomington was painted over with the phrase, “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

At their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington arts commissioners discussed the future of the People’s Park mural.

Three weeks ago, on the day of Juneteenth (June 19)—a celebration marking the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.—the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” were painted over the top of the existing mural. The Bloomington Arts Commission (BAC) had commissioned artist Eva Allen to paint it in 2017.

The addition to the mural came in the context of of nationwide and local demonstrations, prompted by Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, along with other recent police killings of Black men and women. Floyd was killed on May 25 by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, when the police officer pinned Floyd down with a knee-on-neck hold.

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s assistant director for the arts, Sean Starowitz, described the layering of the phrase over the top of the existing mural as a “well-intentioned addition the mural, in terms of the color choice and how it was laid out.”

The Wednesday meeting took place in the context of anti-racism demonstrations that took place on each of the previous days, prompted by recent local incidents.

He told BAC members that “repairs” would not be done to the mural, and it will not be “buffed”—which is the technical term for painting over a mural to make the wall blank again. That’s due in part to the fact that the contract with Allen—who painted the “Bloomington” mural—expires at the end of August.

After that, the future of the wall is uncertain, because the mural is part of a public-private partnership that includes the owners of the Bicycle Garage, whose wall is the canvas for the mural.

Right now, it looks like the maximum time the current state of the wall would persist involves a scenario where the owners don’t paint it over, and the BAC administers a public process for hiring an artist who’ll conduct community engagement— something that might take around six months. Continue reading “People’s Park mural will say “BLACK LIVES MATTER” at least through August, maybe a few months longer”

Activist on “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural overlay: “It’s something we can all dance to.”

Sometime mid-afternoon on Friday a week ago, an anonymous artist, not commissioned by the property owners, drew new letters across the mural in Bloomington’s People’s Park, spelling out the words: “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

That’s the way the mural will look for at least the next few months, Bloomington city officials have said. And some local activists would like the wall to be preserved as it is. Continue reading “Activist on “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural overlay: “It’s something we can all dance to.””

BLM Bloomington Facebook forum: Disarm IU police, sell the Bearcat, boycott city farmers market

Last Saturday, members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) B-town Core Council held a live-streamed Facebook event, under the banner “Black Against the Wall.”

The Facebook forum came the day after an event that was not organized by BLM.

A few thousand people took part in a demonstration that started in Dunn Meadow on Indiana University’s campus and wound up on the courthouse lawn in downtown Bloomington.

BLM’s official statement about the two different events said: “There are many groups in Bloomington working for Black Liberation using a variety of tactics. …Black people are not a monolith, and our differences should be celebrated. We are one community with many different voices that all deserve respect.” Continue reading “BLM Bloomington Facebook forum: Disarm IU police, sell the Bearcat, boycott city farmers market”