Youth, Artists and Community Organizations Unveil New Mural about Police Accountability and Community Safety in the South Bronx

Sat, 09/06/2014
Aidge Patterson

At unveiling celebration youth use art and music to demand an end to police violence and call on New Yorkers to unite to build strong, safe communities

To see photos from the mural painting and unveiling celebration, click here!

Today youth joined with artists, performers and community members to celebrate the completion of a new public mural on 148th St. and Brook Ave in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. The mural is the result of a summer-long collaboration between youth from CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, Justice Committee and Streetwise And Safe, working with artist Raúl Ayala.

Through the mural, as well as today’s performances, the groups say they are seeking to share information about New Yorkers rights when dealing with the police in a manner that is creative and memorable. They also say they hope the mural will serve as an example of what can be accomplished when people come together.

“Painted walls and billboards across the city try to convince New Yorkers they want to buy consumer products,” said Chris Bilal, a spokesperson for Streetwise and Safe. “However, when Streetwise and Safe facilitates know-your-rights workshops, we see clearly that New Yorkers really want more police accountability, better community-police relations, less surveillance and more tools to empower themselves. In partnership with a broad coalition, SAS youth leaders are honored to paint a mural that affirms this reality and provided those tools for an entire neighborhood.”

With the recent rash of police killings – Eric Garner in Staten Island Michael Brown in Ferguson, among others – and still no accountability for the officers involved in the 2012 killing of Bronx youth Ramarley Graham, it’s easy to see how police violence is at the forefront of young peoples’ minds. The murals creators say they believe community members must have tools to protect their rights and should take care of one another. They also say it’s important to celebrate community in the face of violence and brutality.

"If we don't help each other then what is the movement?” said Samuel Maldonado, an 18-year-old intern with the Justice Committee. “This mural is a way to raise the issue of police violence, that has been happening for a very long time. It's also about looking out for each other, knowing your rights, cop watching.”

"In recent months, low-income communities of color across the city have felt the harm done by the NYPD's extreme Broken Windows policing,” said Ruben An, the Coordinator of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities’ youth program. “When officers can arrest and brutalize New Yorkers for acts as ordinary as standing on the street or sleeping on a train, the message to communities is that we are not allowed to exist or enjoy being in public without fear of abuse. Our mural is about celebrating our neighborhoods as belonging to all of us, not just the NYPD and the privileged."

According the Ayala, the mural addresses both the problem of police violence, but also illustrates hope for the future – to live in safe and empowered communities.

“Public art like this can help to shift culture and create hope,” Ayala said. “On a daily basis New Yorkers of color confront the prospect of being wrongfully stopped, arrested, harassed, and brutalized by the police. For those who have lived through traumatic police encounters, seeing the police every day means the possibility of re-living that trauma is ever present. Our hope is that this mural will be a beautiful and informative presence in the face of this reality, inspire people to come together and act as a permanent statement that we are demanding change.”