KALAMAZOO, Mich. — One of the reasons Erin Lenczycki moved away from her native Kalamazoo to Brooklyn, New York was because she said she saw little to no change regarding the injustices in the area.
Lenczycki felt no one had a voice in Kalamazoo, she said.
However, Friday she changed her mind.
“I’m here today because that is clearly not the case,” Lenczycki said during an interview with FOX 17. “People are coming out and have been coming out to support the movement and I think we’ll continue to be here.”
Lenczycki was among the few hundred people who attended the Juneteenth celebration on Rose Street in downtown Kalamazoo.
Juneteenth is a holiday that honors the day in 1865 when the last group of slaves in the country — in Galveston, Texas — learned they were free.
“It was good to see the community move, see the other facilitators help support Jermaine [Jackson],” said artist, activist and facilitator of the event Calvin Green. “I’m down. I love working with Jermaine. He’s really about that life when it comes down to equality and civil rights.”
Jermaine Jackson was the main organizer behind the mural and the Juneteenth celebration on Friday.
Green said Jackson reached out to a number of artists in the area to help paint a Black Lives Matter mural on Rose Street. Friday, they gathered at 8 a.m. and began by painting the mural using large stenciled letters. Then, throughout the day they painted artwork on each of the letters.
“It’s fabulous,” said Mayor David Anderson. “I love to see people getting together. This is something that I’m hoping is a positive kickoff on the work we have to do here in Kalamazoo and across the country.”
Other cities like Washington D.C. and Charlotte, N.C. painted Black Lives Matter murals on their streets in the days after protests and riots erupted in their cities due to the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.
Also, during that time, several transgender women have died, Lenczycki said.
She honored them by writing their names on the sidewalk using chalk.
“I just started expanding on it specifically with trans women like Priscilla Slater here who died nine days ago, in police custody,” said Lenczycki. “And trans women especially aren’t getting the media attention that they should be.”
Lenczycki began creating sidewalk chalk art using Breonna Taylor’s name first. Taylor was the Grand Rapids native who was shot and killed in her home by police in Louisville, Kentucky in March.
“We’ve got to change the story that we’ve been running here and not paying attention to,” said Mayor Anderson. “And that is recognizing what is going on on the street here today: Black Lives Matter.”
The BLM mural was completed by 4 p.m. The city blocked off the street to allow the artists to work on it during the day and allow passers-by to take pictures of it during the evening and night time.
Anderson said he hopes when people see in the future that they’re reminded that change needs to be a part of everybody’s mindset.
“I want people to know that it’s going to be painful and it’s going to be imperfect but we’re going to be trying our best to do the right thing,” Anderson said. “I think that there’s a very famous quote from Maya Angelou who talks about ‘do the right thing and then when you also understand there’s more you should do, then do the more.’ I’m paraphrasing her. So, that’s the work we need to do.”