Muralist meticulously writes ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Detroit gallery wall

Black Lives Matter
Miami-based artist Renda Writer has meticulously written the slogan, “Black Lives Matter,” thousands of times on a wall behind N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Arts in Detroit. All photos by Steve Neavling.

“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.

Black Lives Matter

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.

Black Lives Matter

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.    

Check out Writer’s work on his website or Instagram.

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Steve Neavling

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.

  • Msrker

    He doesn’t have much imagination.

  • kittura

    Another great article titled, “A guide to debunking the need for “All Lives Matter” and its rhetorical cousins”

    “If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, ‘all lives matter,’ then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of ‘all lives.’ ”

    And this quote: “A ProPublica report found that from 2010 to 2012, black men between the ages of 15 and 19 were killed by police at a rate of 31.17 per million, while white men in the same age range were killed at a rate of 1.47 per million.

    The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter arose because of these statistics, which have recently been illustrated by the deaths of Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner (to name but a few).”

    Link to the article:

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Thats crap. Just because blacks have a rough time does not mean no one cares. Far from it. Its almost the opposite, everyone is advocating for them, so much do all you see is black and white, its as if other minorities do not exist. These days blacks can say and do what they want, and are treated with kid gloves, and whites loose their jobs over saying and doing the same things.

      Just because everything from diet, to diabetes, to felonies, to high school graduation is not equal does not mean blacks are not being aided. They are not actively being held down.

      In fact, when was the last time you heard truly hateful stuff about blacks by any CEO, mayor, police chief, media personality etc.

      Who gives hateful whites, true hate, not watered down stuff which just proves my point, these days if its not positive its hate. Black dudes like farakan, jesse, sharpton, quinnel X, and more can say TERRRIBLE things no white guy would say in public and say it infront of a white host and tv crew and no one flinches on the white side.

      Sharpton visits the white house about once per month. No joke.

      Everything is not equal, why do white men and asian men commit suicide but almost no black females do ?

      Why do women live longer than men, who is working to make men live equal or longer. No one have EVER suggested such a program, they just shrug and say men die 5-10 years early, who cares.

      • nitrodrip

        I see you reside in Bizzarro World of the low info resident.

  • maggiemay

    This is bs, all lives matter. Stop with the Black/White thing.

    • R.B.Herberholz

      It would be a black/white thing if white people were killed by police at anywhere near the rate black people are. It is because white lives have been valued so much more than black lives in America that the “black lives matter” movement is necessary.

      • whitey

        Actually from April 2013 to may of 2015, 49 percent of deaths from police were white, 30 percent black, 19 percent spanish, 4 percent asian. Get your facts right before trying to act inteligent. All lives matter. Ignorance will be the fall of america..

        • Tiffany Norwood

          Black people are only 13% of the population of this country.

          77 % are white
          17 percent are Latino or Hispanic (no stats on spanish)
          5.4% are Asian


          You’re right ignorance will be the fall of this country.

          • javierjuanmanuel

            but look at asians, how does a minority that white cops hate that are 6 percent of population get killed only 4 %?

            They are not killing to fill quotas, they are killing people because they are no submitting to arrests.

            Thats why the guy in NYC died, not for selling loosies, he is a repeate cheater, he is a tax cheat and a permit cheat.

            Let me ask you this, how many white or jewish guys can open a store and pay zero taxes, income, fica, no taxes on their employeees, NONE, get no building permit, no license, nothing. Stay in business.

            It can’t happen.

            Then when the IRS comes to arrest you, you fight them, IRS has guns, they will kill you.

            How about mike brown trying to kill that cop.

            I knew lots of kids who talk stuff behind a cops back, or after he leaves, not anyone who tries to choke, or punk them in the face or take their gun.

            Just as an experiment, go down town, go to DPD, there are black female cops. Walk close to her, reach for her gun, and do not stop fighting, see if you get shot.

            Do it.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          That sounds believable, one has to ask, why are asians under represented if all the cps are racist. If asians are 6 %, and cops are racist white guys, why are not something like 15% of deaths asian.

          Why are ANY white guys getting killed ?

        • R.B.Herberholz

          First of all how can you tell that I was “acting inteligent” based off of my typed comment, second of all you spelled intelligent wrong, and third of all Tiffany already schooled you on your own ignorance so I don’t have to.

          • Jennifer Bechtol

            Did anyone else notice that those stats add up to 111%?…

      • javierjuanmanuel

        That assumes everything is equal in terms of blacks repsonse to cops.

        Do they fight more often, or resist more often ?

        Do they just run no matter what ?

        Do they have 2 priors and this is their third ?

        Just that alone has to account for allot, if more black guys are felons, and they are in a three strikes state, number three is kill or go to jail. That means the cop also has to kill.

        you act as if cops, black cops, asian cops, middle eastern cops, latin cops, just go up to black dudes at the bus stop in suits, and shoot them in the face for having black skin.

        • R.B.Herberholz

          Are you seriously suggesting black people fight more often, resist police more often, and run from police no matter what!?!

          Because I’m not sure if you realize this but that kind of thinking is extremely racist, its as if you imagine a fantasy country where everyone has been treated equally since its inception.

          Why don’t you attempt grounding your extremely prejudiced and hateful opinions in just a little bit of fact.

          Ive read through your comments some are just strange, most follow impossible logic, and you seem to love going off on long tangents, at the end of which you answer your own questions, as if that should be considered proof of your points, which are extremely difficult to suss out from your nonsense.

          Do you notice how no one agrees with any of your comments, that’s because other contributors think and reflect before they begin hammering away at their keyboards. They even refer us to trusted sources of information and other publications so that we may verify claims they make.

    • kittura

      “Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should alsomatter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.”

      The title of this article:
      “The next time someone says ‘all lives matter,’ show them these 5 paragraphs”

      • javierjuanmanuel

        there is no implicit too at the end, holy shit !

        Screw that, its the same as saying, won’t anyone care for the jewish business’s ?

        Please save korean immigrant homes.

        It reminds me of every time I am at one of the big box stores at the ghetto malls, some black kid wants to ask me if I will give him money to go on black spring break.

        Can you imagine a white guy asking a black dude for hard earned cash, to go somewhere the black donater is not allowed ? It feels like I am living in bizzaro world

    • AnotherDan

      Maggiemay is the type of person who would go to a Breast Cancer 5K holding a sign that says “ALL CANCERS MATTER, not just breast cancer”. Obtuse!

  • Amanda

    …but he’s white.

    • R.B.Herberholz

      Thats great because more white people need to let other white people know that black lives matter.

      • javierjuanmanuel

        Have you ever heard anyone but a troll suggest that black lives do not matter?

        Its almost as if people made up out of thin air. I have never heard anyone say, yeah he died, but he was black. Do not shed a tear.

        Yeah but he is black, dont worry about it.

        No funeral, he is black.

        Dude, you must be confused, you thought he was white, this dude is black, we just throw the black guys in the dumpster, we do not treat them at the hospital.

        Its so that these days if you hold a door for a white person, if there is a black guy 120 ft from the door, you have to hold the door for him or you are a stone cold racist. Thats the petty sort of coddling we do, no one is being denied a spot at the food counter like 1950s deep south.

      • Jennifer Bechtol

        One might also suggest that more black people let other black people know that black lives matter..

  • kathy

    Detroit appreciates the N”Nandi family for allowing Renda Writer’s painted mural “Black Lives Matter”. The city of Detroit residents and the Black Lives Matter organization will find Steve’s story coverage as thumbs up! More media throughout the city of Detroit and the United States should conduct a story about this contemporary art mural “Black Lives Matter” in the “D”. The N’Nandi Family Center for Contemporary Arts is certainly a Detroit tourist site. No where else but, Detroit!

    • Renda Writer

      Thank You

  • Jaye

    From Java D’ lites to Detroit. Good on ya Renda!

    • Renda Writer

      Good to hear from you Jaye. Keep in touch. I’m doing a bunch more murals in South Florida soon. Got one lined up in Wilton Manors… and I’m doing one on October 10-11 in Boynton Beach. Let me know if you’d be interested in documenting, filming, whateva. (310) 404-4184

  • Renda Writer

    Thank you. I am grateful for this article, and I appreciate the diving timing that allowed us to meet.

    • muckraker_steve

      So glad to meet you, Renda. Very inspiring.

  • Donald E. Hodge

    I love stories like this Steve, they are very much needed to keep my soul intact.