By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
When George Clinton collaborated with Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Yo-Yo, KAM, MC Breed and Pupa Curley for the 1993 song, “Paint the White House Black,” it was a means of positive protest against systemic racism, police brutality and unjust treatment of Black communities. Some 27 years later, millions around the nation and world are protesting against the same sad plight for Black Americans, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser may not have had an all-star team of musicians on a track, but she found a way to paint the road to the White House Black.
On Friday, June 5, Washingtonians woke up to a new message covering 16th Street N.W. near the White House- “Black Lives Matter.”
“We know what’s going on in our country, there’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of distrust of police and the government, they’re people craving to be heard and to be seen and to be have their humanity recognized. We had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city,” Bowser said in her daily COVID-19 update press conference.
The Mayor commissioned the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) to bring this peaceful form of protest to life.
“That message is to the American people, that Black lives matter, Black humanity matters and we as a city raise that up as part of our values as a city. So I’m very grateful to Murals DC out of DPW- a great team of artists who got it done and implemented it,” Bowser added.
In addition to the gigantic message covering 16th Street, Bowser also officially renamed the street near the White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Wayne Bennett Pettus, a young Black man working for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Field Operations Division’s Fabrication Shop, took to Twitter to say he was honored to work on the project and proud of the Mayor for her willingness to participate in this form of protest.
“Yesterday my team and I got a chance to make history when [D.C.’s] Mayor Bowser had us create these [#BlackLivesMatter] signs to be installed in [D.C.]! I [was] so proud of her when they asked me to design it! In fact, we are all so proud of her for making her stance clear,” he tweeted including a photo of him carrying the sign in one hand and holding up the “Black Power” fist with the other.
Despite the celebration surrounding the new street and street art, not everyone was pleased with the Mayor’s most recent actions.
Black Lives Matter DC called Bowser’s protest “a distraction.”
“This is performative and a distraction from her active counter organizing to our demands to decrease the police budget and invest in the community. Black Lives Matter means Defund the police,” the organization tweeted.
In addition, while his tweet wasn’t directly related to the new artwork and street name across from his house, President Donald Trump had some not so complimentary words for Mayor Bowser right around the time people were celebrating “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
“The incompetent Mayor of Washington, D.C., [Mayor Muriel Bowser], who’s budget is totally out of control and is constantly coming back to us for ‘handouts,’ is now fighting with the National Guard, who saved her from great embarrassment over the last number of nights,” Trump tweeted, before writing what appeared to be a threat. “If she doesn’t treat these men and women well, then we’ll bring in a different group of men and women!”