by Chamidae Ford
Last Saturday afternoon, many braved the heatwave to gather at Be’er Sheva park to celebrate the unveiling of the park’s first mural.
The event was a collaboration between Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC), Art of Resistance and Resilience (ARR), Link2Lake, and Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.
Those involved spent five days working in the sun, and the previous two months planning the mural, in preparation for this celebration.
Kema Jones, from ARR, an arts activism club from Franklin High School, co-facilitated the mural with Mari Shibua. Jones mentioned that for ARR, uplifting youth was the focal point of the project.
“I thoroughly believe in allowing youth to stand on my shoulders so we can raise them up and empower them,” Jones said.
In fact, the mural was designed by Willie Makk, a senior at Franklin High School. He credits the design to the way it feels to be a part of the South Seattle community and through this project has found a love for making murals.
“Hopefully I will be able to come back to [the mural] and see it when I’m older and be like, ‘wow, that’s my first mural,’” Makk said. “I really loved [making it]. That might be a thing that I start doing now.”
As a whole, the youth of RBAC and ARR were the driving force behind the messages reflected in the mural. The wall features words of respect, strength, and love and people from all walks of life, celebrating diversity and community.
“There’s an initiative at Rainier Beach Action Coalition, and it’s for a beautiful, safe place for youth, and some of their mantras are what you saw on the wall,” Jones said. “It’s just trying to keep that community safe and also inviting art and creating community through art.”
The mural is part of the plans to improve Rainier Beach, an initiative that began in 2012 but has gained more traction over the last three years. Link2Lake is currently raising funds to renovate Be’er Sheva park. The $2 million dollar project would create a beachfront, outdoor stage, covered picnic area, and community gathering spots. They have currently reached half of their goal and are intending to begin work on creating the beachfront at the end of 2021.
With these improvements in mind, the theme of the afternoon was love for one’s community. It could be felt by all those in attendance. From the people who participated in the mural and those showing up to celebrate hard work, there was genuine appreciation throughout the event.
One of the volunteers, Elle Duke, is a painter and felt compelled to participate in the mural as a way of giving back to her community.
“I saw them out here working on it and I just thought, you know what, this is my community. I love it. I want to be a part [of the project],” Duke said.
The event featured music and food from Lets Just Smoke BBQ. There was also a wide selection of ice cream and free shirts available for those in attendance.
Jones has found that art in the community is essential because of its ability to create love and connection.
“It’s like that one quote, ‘many in body but one in mind,’” Jones said. “We all have a collective focus that we’re going to get this job done because we want to see ourselves transform something that wasn’t so great. And now we’ve put a stamp on it, and that’s empowerment. Like that’s how you bring it all together. It just develops a certain type of love and community. I can’t even really explain it. You just have to feel it. You have to be a part of it.”
It was an afternoon of empowerment and just the beginning of the community working to improve the place they love.
You can see more about the proposed improvements of Be’er Sheva park on the Link2Lake website.
Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.
📸 Featured Image: A member of the Rainier Beach Action Coalition helps paint a community mural at Be’er Sheva Park (Photo: Britt Lê )
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