City of Birmingham

Black Lives Matter Message Rolls Over Downtown Birmingham Street

A Black Lives Matter mural being painted on a downtown street before Friday’s Juneteenth celebration. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Shawn Fitzwater admits he had little hope of his suggestion of a “Black Lives Matter” street mural coming to fruition.

“Really,” the professional painter said today, “not at all.”

But the suggestion from Fitzwater and another individual will likely be a reality by the end of today. Work began Wednesday on the street mural, on First Avenue South between 16th and 17th Streets, where “Black Lives” has been painted in bright yellow paint.

Today, the final word of the phrase is going into place as a second coat is applied to the first two words. The aim is to complete the project in time for Juneteenth festivities in Birmingham.

Department of Transportation workers were helping paint a Black Lives Matter street mural on Friday. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Juneteenth is an unofficial American holiday and an official Texas state holiday, celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union Army General Gordon Granger’s reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming all slaves in Texas to be free.

Fitzwater drew attention with his recent “We’re All In This Together” mural on the side of the Battle Republic building in downtown Homewood. That effort was an inspirational message as the metro area, like the rest of the nation and world, goes through the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The muralist had seen media coverage of a street in Washington, D.C., being painted with “Black Lives Matter” in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Fitzwater relayed links to stories to the office of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

“’Wouldn’t this be cool to have in Birmingham?’” Fitzwater said in his communication.

Unbeknownst to him, Cara McClure of Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter contacted the mayor’s office with the same suggestion.

Cara McClure, of Black Lives Matter Birmingham, and painter Shawn Fitzwater both suggested the street mural to the city. (Source: Birmingham Facebook page)

“A couple of weeks later I was at dinner with the family and got a phone call (from) the mayor’s office,” Fitzwater recalled. “’Hey, how do we get this done. Let’s do it.’

“We apparently both sent the same message to the mayor’s office,” the painter said.  “They met about it, took both of our ideas and combined them and here we are now.”

Volunteers and staffers from the Birmingham Department of Transportation worked on the project.

Department of Transportation employees work on a letter for the Black Lives Matter mural. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)