Black Lives Matter mural unveiled outside Ann Arbor District Library

A panel of the Black Lives Matter mural unveiled by the Ann Arbor District Library on May 21 in Ann Arbor. (Sarah Parlette, WDIV)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On Friday, a Black Lives Matter mural was installed outside of the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL).

Located on the south side of Library Lane, the mural is made up of eight different panels, each encompassing what the phrase “Black Lives Matter” means to eight Black artists.

On one panel there is a scroll of endless names as well as the faces of recognizable individuals whose deaths fueled the Black Lives Matter movement, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Another panel shows three Black dancers, while another says “Say Her Name” in a heart. The other panels depict comic-book-style scenes, a collage of figures, a young boy as an angel and another child sitting crossed-legged with a crown.

Black and blue letters in different sizes and shapes spell out Black Lives Matter across the full span of the eight panels.

A panel of the Black Lives Matter mural unveiled by the Ann Arbor District Library on May 21 in Ann Arbor. (WDIV)

The mural is the culmination of almost a year’s worth of work between library staff, the arts community, and a review panel including Jamall Bufford, Marianetta Porter and Rochelle Riley, AADL said.

AADL Artistic Coordinator Avery Williamson lead the project and contributed to a panel. The other seven panels were created by artists T’onna Clemons, Quadre Curry, Demario Dotson, John Rodriguez, Jaleesa Rosario Turner, Rachel Elise Thomas and Curtis Wallace.

A panel of the Black Lives Matter mural unveiled by the Ann Arbor District Library on South Library Lane in Ann Arbor. (WDIV)

In 2020, the library system put out a Call for Artists for the mural as part of its Black Lives Matter initiatives.

“We are so gratified by the response to the AADL Call for Artists that has led to the installment of this collaborative mural at the Downtown Library, and to the addition of works by local Black artists that have been added to the very popular AADL circulating art print collection,” said Library Director Josie Parker in a release. “We appreciate the opportunity to bring these artists and this work to the AADL community and look forward to continuing these initiatives and relationships.”

Panels of the Black Lives Matter mural unveiled by the Ann Arbor District Library on South Library Lane in Ann Arbor. (WDIV)

The library system plans to install panels on either side of the mural to highlight each of the artists. It will also show the original use of the letters through photographs from the archives with additional information about the moments and places depicted.

“It was important to me for the letters to honor the spaces where history has been made, and to encourage the community to imagine and celebrate Black futures,” said Williamson, who chose the letters from images in the Ann Arbor District Library and African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County (AACHM) archives that are significant to Washtenaw County Black history.

A formal dedication ceremony for the mural is planned for later in the summer and an Artist Showcase featuring works for sale will happen later in the year, said AADL.

Learn more about the initiative at aadl.org/blacklivesmatter.

Panels of the Black Lives Matter mural unveiled by the Ann Arbor District Library on South Library Lane in Ann Arbor. (WDIV)
Panels of the Black Lives Matter mural unveiled by the Ann Arbor District Library on South Library Lane in Ann Arbor. (WDIV)

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.