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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Historic West End murals a source of healing on Beatties Ford Road
Art honor victims with messages of empowerment
Published Wednesday, July 15, 2020 3:40 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Carla Aaron-Lopez paints a section of the “West End” mural on Beatties Ford Road, which honors victims of a June mass shooting at a Juneteenth weekend block party that left four people dead.

West Charlotte residents are using art as a form of healing.

The oppression and divestment of Black communities is not a new phenomenon in this country. They continue to push forward, despite a lack of resources. In the wake of tragedy in their community when a mass shooting killed Jamaa Cassell, Christopher Gleaton, Kelly Miller and Dairyon Stevenson in June, artists have come together to create a second mural on Beatties Ford Road.

The community put out a call for artists to honor the deceased, and the response has resulted in two murals: “Beatties Ford Strong” next to Niki’s Food Shop at 2200 Beatties Ford Road and “West End” at 2020 Beatties Ford Road.

“We put one simple post [on social media] giving people an opportunity to show their love and support for the pain that people are feeling, whether it was through the loss of loved ones or George Floyd, or just inequities and overdue investment in this area, to just come show some love and some support, and 60 artists just showed up,” said J’Tanya Adams of Historic West End, one of the organizers of the West End murals. “One call—60 creatives.”

The organizers asked the artists what they needed to create, and it came down to spray paint. Supporters donated more than enough.

“People came by and they dropped off quarters and dollars and cases of paint, and water and food,” Adams said. “We didn’t make perpetual calls. It was one call. This is where we’re at. Boom—[the community] showed up. This has been a lot of love. This has been an unbelievable journey that I had no idea that I was about to step into.”

Many of the artists participating in the project have been involved with other projects as a way to illustrate the Black Lives Matter movement in Charlotte, both through the city commissioning the Black Lives Matter mural on Tryon Street and Makayla Binter bringing the Mural Panel Project to the Levine Museum of the New South. Binter collaborated with Matthew Clayburn and LordPhly on the Mural Panel project. Clayburn also painted the A in Matter on Tryon St. The three of them were involved with the West End mural. All of the artists involved and their Instagram handles:

W-Michael Grant @infamous_kiddo and Carla Aaron-Lopez @iamkingcarla

E-Binter @mkay_15 and Dammit Wesley @dammit_wesley

S-Clayburn @matthewclayburn and LordPhly @lordphly


E-Dyair @dyairart

N-Ricky Singh @mrrickysingh

D-DeNeer Davis @neerperfection

“Art is not something new in cities—there are murals everywhere,” said Singh, who moved here 12 years ago. “It’s a form of healing and response to large events that are occurring. That’s the difference. Particularly to the westside it’s offering a sense of healing to a neighborhood that may not have been a priority. To me, it’s been a form of healing for the community to deal with those issues, and find some way to express their perspective on it.”

The West End mural is designed to provide empowerment, particularly to the youth in the neighborhood.

“[The letters are] bright—they’re vibrant,” said Singh, who is the high school planning lead for Charlotte Lab School, a charter school based in center city. “Research suggests that bright colors and powerful words are large. I’m a school leader. I focus on that at Charlotte Lab School. What does the environment look like? The environment plays a large role in a school. It plays a large role in a community.”

The W features a lion, as well as rap lyrics to create a powerful image.

“I like rap lyrics a lot. So I thought about some very powerful lyrics, and decided to select ones that would resonate most with the community I come from,” King Carla said.
For her, the mural represents her experiences growing up on Beatties Ford Road.

“This is a wonderful representation of the colorful experiences I’ve had growing up just on this street along,” King Carla said. “With the oncoming onslaught of gentrification, literally slaughtering neighborhoods through here, you’re never going to know about why this place is so special to Black residents of Charlotte.”

Others who grew up on Beatties Ford Road also came out to lend a hand, including Grammy-nominated rapper Luther “Lute” Nicholson. He helped Singh paint the N in the mural. For Lute, his home represents, “family, support and community.”

“The area is being recognized, finally,” Lute said. “To me, that’s what it means. The people that were tragically lost are being recognized, and the whole community is being recognized.”


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