By Janica Maya
The protest on anti-Black racism in Toronto has now become a global action bringing many local artists to the streets of Toronto, to show solidarity and support through their art.
Toronto’s infamous Graffiti Alley attracts many people with its bright colours and vibrant images. The initiative “Paint the City Black” gathered over 40 artists to transform the alley with multiple murals to show recognition and solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Moises Frank, a graffiti artist and organizer of the event said: “We wanted to create a physical space where people can experience something similar to the ‘Blackout Tuesday’ movement but in a physical sense, in a geographical location in the city where people can walk through and experience it.”
Blackout Tuesday is an initiative to inspire people to pause and understand the long-standing racism and inequality that exist in multiple industries. To support this movement, many people took to their social media posting a black square to show solidarity. However, the murals in Graffiti Alley were more than a solid black square, but moving images and words to encourage people to recognize an important issue. Frank’s piece was the portrait of Zianna Oliphant, a nine-year-old girl who delivered a powerful and tearful speech on the mistreatment of Black people to the City Council in Charlotte. Frank said: “I thought about the future generation, in her lifetime she sees changes and so I wanted to create her as the face of a new generation of people.”
Paint The City Black was one of many art events in Toronto that supported the protest on Anti-Black racism. In Kensington Market, 16 artists came together on Augusta Avenue to paint the important message, Black Lives Matter. The mural spanned from Baldwin to Nassau Street, where artists painted a letter with their design on what this issue means to them. The streets of Kensington Market are usually busy, but many people stopped and acknowledged the powerful message of the mural. According to Sean Pascalle, owner of Poetry Jazz Cafe: “The mural was needed out on the street, it created a sense of permanence and the fact that it’s still there and not washed away by the rain, it’s kind of symbolic.” The cafe, known as the music scene of jazz, neo-soul and R&B, in which derived from Black culture, shares similar values to the murals, providing recognition to the Black community. Sean said: “I’m trying to let people know where the music that they love comes from so tying to the mural; it’s a sense of permanence on history.”
With the rising global awareness of anti-Black racism, art has become a social tool to spark words and actions expressing the movement for change. Frank said: “Practicing art in public is a privilege; we’re all putting this before ourselves. We’re all spending money and time studying paintings for a greater cause.”