HARLEM, Manhattan — A neighborhood flowing with identity and so much history adds a little bit more.
A “Black Lives Matter” mural was painted in Harlem Friday with a famous guest to help commemorate it.
“Black lives have always mattered in Harlem,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton. “We knew who we were on this corner, it was down the block where James Brown sang ‘Say it loud, I am Black and I am proud.'”
The corner he’s referring to is at West 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. Each letter was painted in the roadway brightly and boldly.
“To me these letters mean my culture,” said State Sen. Brian Benjamin.
Attorney General Letitia James saw the mural as important given the current climate.
“Listen we’ve heard the cry for justice, the cry for change and change is now being heard all across this state and all across this nation,” she said.
As the city continues to search for ways to address systemic racism and celebrate the contributions of Black New Yorkers, an idea was born. Bring murals to the streets.
However, this artwork in Harlem almost didn’t happen.
“The decision was made to do the Manhattan street mural downtown and you know, I felt very strongly you cannot have a Black Lives Matter mural where the Black people aren’t,” said Benjamin. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
The community spoke up and now, those words stretch from 125th to 127th Street.
“We also need our young kids in the St. Nicole houses to see it,” added Benjamin.
Local artists and nonprofits filled in each letter with a little help from City Hall.
“Remember the mural is only the beginning,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The mural says what needs to be said but now we have to turn it into action.”
Standing shoulder to shoulder with the mayor was Korey Wise. As a Harlem teen, Wise was falsely convicted of a rape in Central Park. Today, he stands tall as a member of what are now known as The Exonerated 5.
“I’ts always emotional, it always it stays emotional whenever you come across your own, you always have a tear in your eye,” said Wise.