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A mural in the familiar yellow block letters of the Black Lives Matter movement was painted on the streets surrounding Travis Park early Wednesday morning.
It’s a message of solidarity with the protests that have swept the nation – and globe – in recent months but with a lyrical twist.
Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, San Antonio’s poet laureate, authored the poem painted on the streets of East Pecan, Jefferson, and East Travis, which form the perimeter around Travis Park.
The poem reads: “Jubilant and exuberant is the melanin of our skin / From despair, we have arisen.”
Sanderson wrote the poem after she was approached by Andi Rodriguez, Centro San Antonio’s vice president of urban planning, as part of a public art program the nonprofit organization administers.
Centro’s central charge is beautifying the streets of downtown San Antonio, and Rodriguez had been brainstorming ways to engender a message of unity amid uncertain times. That’s when she remembered seeing one of Sanderson’s live performances.
“Her words are just so beautiful,” she said. “It was like, ‘That’s what we need.’ We need to do something with these hopeful uplifting words that bring people together and lift people up.”
She then phoned local artists Anthony Dean-Harris and Scotch to design the concept for the mural. In the works for more than a month, the project brought together about 20 volunteers Tuesday night. Into the early hours of Wednesday morning, the volunteers made broad strokes with paint rollers to plaster Sanderson’s words onto the pavement.
Performed in the spoken-word tradition, Sanderson’s poetry is ephemeral, but this one was written specifically for the ground. She said the poem is about overcoming the hatred people of color have been subjected to and replacing it with joy and self-affirmation.
“I see this poem further letting people of color know you’ve arisen; you’re free,” Sanderson said. “So soar, fly, do the things that are in your heart to do. And no one can hold you down. No one can oppress you any longer.”
Street murals supportive of the Black Lives Matter cause have emerged in cities throughout the country, first appearing in Washington D.C. and then in New York City, Seattle, Sacramento, and Austin to name a few.
The mural will remain until at least January, Rodriguez said, and funding came entirely from Centro San Antonio coffers. The nonprofit is supported by assessments on property owners within the downtown public improvement district.