“Black Lives Matter.”
It’s a slogan that has inspired a nationwide movement to call attention to the disproportionate number of unarmed black people killed by police.
Over the past few days, Miami-based artist Renda Writer has meticulously written the slogan thousands of times in various sizes on a black cinderblock wall behind N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Arts on Forest between Woodward and John R in Detroit.
The mural has already become an attraction as word spreads.
“Black lives matter – that’s the truth,” Writer, who is white, told me with an infectious smile Saturday afternoon. “It’s not saying that other lives don’t matter. It’s not saying kill cops. It’s just a message that says, ‘Black lives matter.'”
Writer realizes the slogan has been misconstrued and attacked. But for him, it’s straightforward and comes at an important time.
“What color was Trayvon Martin? What color was Freddie Gray? What color was Michael Brown? These people are dead because of the color of their skin,” Writer said.
Writer’s connection to Detroit comes through the N’Namdi family, which owns an art gallery in Miami. Writer painted a mural at the Florida gallery with the words, “Love is a risk. Do it anyway,” handwritten 500,000 times.
This week was Writer’s first time in Detroit.
“I realize there may be a backlash,” he said, his fingers and clothes blotched with white paint.
How does Writer handle his critics?
“I send them love,” he said.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.