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In a city where a temporary “Black Lives Matter” mural stirred emotional reactions and helped draw national attention, a more long-term BLM mural is being planned by leaders and members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Contra Costa.
During a Zoom meeting of the Martinez Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission Tuesday night, Rebecca Barrett — the Boys & Girls Club’s director of development — said the Martinez clubhouse across the Plaza Ygnacio square from City Hall off Alhambra Avenue would be willing to host a BLM permanent mural on its north wall, facing the city offices.
“Most of all, we’ve heard from our kids, and we think this is a great opportunity to express themselves with a message of equity and inclusion,” Barrett told the commission Tuesday.
“I think it’s something the community really needs, and I think it will bring some resolution to some of the things that have been happening.”Rebecca Barrett, Boys & Girls Clubs of Contra Costa
On Wednesday, Barrett, who is also a member of the Contra Costa Community College District board of directors, said an Alhambra High School senior is set to head the mural project, and expects a core of five to 10 other club members will be directly involved.
Barrett said that when news spread of George Floyd’s death, she began hearing from the kids. “There has been a discussion about what it’s like to be a Black youth in Martinez.”
Tuesday’s commission discussion came about in the wake of the July 4 painting of a temporary “Black Lives Matter” mural on a section of Court Street in downtown Martinez. The mural was proposed by a local volunteer representing the group Martizians for Black Lives after two white power fliers were found on a sidewalk near the Martinez Detention Facility jail.
That mural, now fading, was approved and authorized at the direction of City Manager Eric Figueroa. It was the first time the city of Martinez had installed any public art or public expression on a city street.
Subsequent reaction was decidedly mixed; while some praised the city for its anti-racism stance, others alleged the city was making, or at least allowing, an unchallenged political statement.
In any event, city officials realized there was no formal procedure for permitting such a mural, or other comparable art installation or expression. The commission, and one of its subcommittees, will forge a formal policy through which murals, sculptures, banners, statues and other media, on public or private property that are publicly viewable, will go through an approval process.
Committee member Karen Bell-Patterson said she hopes that, given the lively and at times tense dialogue surrounding the BLM mural, there is wider buy-in.
“The public’s had responses to what’s gone on, and I think they deserve to have some feedback on the process,” she said.
Barrett said the Boys and Girls club mural will have to go through whatever process the parks commission — and ultimately the Martinez City Council — approves. She hopes the permitting process is finalized soon enough for a mural to be finished by December.
“I think it’s something the community really needs, and I think it will bring some resolution to some of the things that have been happening,” she said.