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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Artists band together for mural magic with message of unity
Raise awareness for racial justice with local themes
Published Friday, July 24, 2020 9:57 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

A crew of Charlotte artisans painted the “Unify” mural at Kiplin Automotive Group on Brookshire Boulevard last weekend to raise awareness about people suffering from injustice.

Murals with meaning are spreading across Charlotte.

Kiplin Automotive Group is using their space to spread a message of unity while also calling for change. The used-car dealership located at 3515 Brookshire Blvd. began transforming the walls at the edge of its lot in June when artist Abstract Dissent painted the face of George Floyd inside the word change.

Two more murals were added to the wall the weekend of July 18. Artists Makayla Binter, Frankie Zombie and Garrison Gist created the “Unify” mural. Matthew Clayburn, LordPhly, as well as Arko and Owl created the works to the right. One of the organizers of the murals on Beatties Ford Road, Ricky Singh, provided paint for the project.

Since the June 9 Black Lives Matter mural on Tryon Street was commissioned by the city of Charlotte in Uptown, art supporting the Black Lives Matter movement locally and nationally continues to spread. From cultural institutions like the Levine Museum of the New South where Binter expanded her Mural Panel Project in collaboration with Claybun and LordPhly to the West End mural on Beatties Ford Road where community members responded to a mass shooting that killed four in June, artists have things to say.

“Everybody in some capacity likes art,” said Gist, a former University of South Carolina football player. “It doesn’t matter what walk of life you are from. In some capacity, you like art. With pieces like this, one, the message obviously, ‘unify’ and trying to bring everyone together, but when you come out and put it in an open space like this, it provides people an escape. Especially in times like this [when] everything is super tense. It starts a conversation, because [people ask], ‘why did you guys paint this?’ and then you can give them that message, but at the same time, people can come out and interact with the art. They can take pictures. It provides that little escape in times like now where everything is so tense—emotions are high.”

This creative process is about driving awareness for those suffering from injustice, for Frankie Zombie. He and Gist designed the fist, which represents the letter “I” in Unify, merging the design with Binter’s to create a Charlotte theme.

“We’re just out here having a good time, fellowshipping and bringing some serious awareness to some lives that have been lost, especially over the last few weeks to months ,” said Frankie Zombie, who created the “T” in Matter on Tryon Street. “It’s all about awareness and unity today.”

Said Binter: “They had the idea to have the fist in the middle of the West End Mural, but it wasn’t able to fit. They slipped me the design for it, and I built off of it to make this mural. The word unify I had already designed into a previous one, but it got shifted into this Charlotte theme, which is actually super-duper cool.”

Clayburn created EGO, which appears in his work on the Mural Panel Project, the West End Mural, as well as the A in Matter on Tryon Street.

“EGO is a persona for my own mental and emotional health as a Black man in America,” Clayburn said. “I’ve been drawing him since I was 14 years old, around the time when Trayvon Martin passed away. I really identified with his story, and ever since then, it’s been on my heart.

“I usually wear a hoodie [like EGO]. It’s too hot out here to do that today, but he wears his heart on his sleeve the same way I do, the same way LordPhly does—the same way a true creative or a true artist would in the world today. He’s every bit of a product of his environment, every time you see him.”

LordPhly, a Raleigh-based creative, also participated in the Mural Panel Project, and partnered with Clayburn on the S in the West End mural.

“My man Matthew has kept me down in Charlotte, not longer than I wanted to be, but longer than I planned or expected,” LordPhly said. “While I’m here, there’s always some work to be done—always some messaging to be left. No fear. No worries. No apologies, all around. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be here.”

Kiplin Automotive manager James Charles intends to allow artists to cover the remaining empty wall space with messages of hope and encouragement. They also will use it as a means of creating community conversations inspired by the art as an extension of the lot’s multifaceted purpose. It’s a dealership by day and a refuge for the homeless by night.

Charles keeps the lot well-lit, with security cameras and the understanding that those living out of their cars are welcome to park there overnight. In February, he started a GoFundMe to provide the security deposit and the first month of rent for those seeking safety at Kiplin Automotive. It resulted in the creation of a non-profit called Helping and Leading Others (HALO) Now. The GoFundMe raised over $37,000 thus far, with a goal of $250,000. Charles knows the struggle of being displaced, as he and his family were homeless in 2015 when the house they were renting was sold without their knowledge. They were forced to stay in hotels as temporary housing. Now he seeks to help others navigate a challenging situation.

“Our program helps get people out of their cars and into homes,” said Scott Donnelly, who volunteers with HALO Now. “Our 10th person was helped in June.”

More about HALO Now:


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