A mural touting peace and civil rights is being expanded by a group of artists in Little Rock. They’re painting the mural on large concrete walls under railroad overpasses on West 7th Street, just west of the state Capitol. It’s being done as part of the 2019 Arkansas Peace Week, which includes a number of events throughout the state.
The mural was first painted three years ago, but artist Jose Hernandez says several of the scenes were hit with graffiti, including white spray paint used to cover up people’s faces.
"We had some swastikas painted over the murals up here on the far side, so every time that happened we came out here and we painted a new mural on top of it, covered and expanded it," he said while taking a break from painting the mural Saturday. "We thought, you know, have a reaction towards that negativity with some positivity, and after that happened it snowballed to getting the community involvement."
Just over $1,000 was raised through two benefit shows featuring live music, including one at the nearby White Water Tavern. That money, Hernandez says, is being used to cover the cost of paint and scaffolding equipment.
Priming was done this past weekend by painting the base colors. Next weekend the artists will return to put the finishing touches on the mural. When completed, Hernandez says it will feature the words “create” and “peace,” as well as civil rights icons like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Daisy Bates of Little Rock, and the nine black students who integrated the city’s Central High School in 1957.
The mural also features a scene with protestors holding signs that say "black lives matter," "separation of church and state," and "abolish ICE," referencing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement which has been rounding up people in the country illegally and returning them to their home countries.
"It’s going to have some Little Rock Niners passing the baton to the dreamers," Hernandez said.
As for graffiti that has been placed on the mural, he said, "It’s unfortunate that we’re having to deal with the same things that we have in the past, but we have to keep the fight going and the message going so [we can] try to promote peace and creativity through different means, especially for our youth."
He said that it’s important for young people to know the importance of art, and through it "another world is possible. Imagination is power. So anything you can imagine, you can create."
Other events are also taking place to mark Arkansas Peace Week, which is in observance of the United Nation's Day of Peace in the third week of September. The Little Rock School District has activities planned Wednesday and Friday at McDermott Elementary School. The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site will host an exhibit on the Victory Over Violence movement throughout the week.