Street artists create murals of Black lives lost that cannot be ignored: Part 1

Artists have taken a leadership role in the fight for equality, painting murals commemorating those who’ve died from racism, and joining a history of art mirroring society’s struggles.
9:46 | 09/22/20

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Transcript for Street artists create murals of Black lives lost that cannot be ignored: Part 1
We turn to police encounters that have turned deadly. The Colorado governor has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the death of 23-year-old Elijah Mcclain, and like others said those chilling words -- I can't breathe. Please! The part that ravaged me the most, what he said, were kind words. He was kind to the people that were killing him. A portrait of 23-year-old Elijah Mcclain, playing his violin. I have been constantly going, which is still nerve wracking, I'm not a doomsdayer. But I'm cautious. But then the protests start. Black lives matter. You just blame protesters. Hand up, don't shoot. Everything in me was I don't want to get sick, but I need to be out there. I need to be in this, this is about me right now. George Floyd! You have heard their names. Say her name. Breonna Taylor. You know their faces. Victims of racism and police violence, now memorialized in full color and larger than life. In the midst of a global pandemic, clashing with the modern day civil rights movement. Hands up! Don't shoot! Artists across the country are matching the voice on of a movement with murals. The words black lives matter -- painted up and down the streets. They have become contagious in a certain way. This one is in downtown Manhattan. The word lives designed by local artist Sofia Dawson. What type of impact is it for people to see art like yours having a similar message in other places in the country. I looked at what they did in Seattle and Harlem. I was like, oh, my god, it's like a domino affect, a ripple affect happening, right? I think it's for the communities, I feel like they feel like their voices are being heard. That they are being seen for the first time. Today, we are in Newark, new Jersey, by Sofia's piece, called every mother. She painted it in the fall of 2016, after the police killings of Alton sterling. There's nobody who is excluded when you are dealing with public art. What has this moment meant to you? How it happened and there was no pandemic or quarantine, the people would not have time to be on the streets and so the purpose of collar bars is to really literally be the TV screen that used to say programming is done for today and you were stuck with this background until TV came back on. And so, it feels like the world stood still in that way for the first time. You talk about the color bars but you painted this in 2016. Yeah, I know. You knew something was going to happen? I like that the work is still relevant, but it also hurts that the work -- that is work is relevant at the same time. What is it about making art this big that it makes a big impact and gets a reaction? Working big, it's so in your face, you cannot miss it. You do not have to be privileged enough to go to a museum or gallery. So essentially public art is bringing art to the people. Paintings like Sofia's follow a long history of street art that mirrors the struggles of society, Whitney museum director said with the pandemic and the racial reckoning, everyone has a This pandemic has given everyone their, that sense of being their own super hero. Like, we are doing it. We all are doing it. I think everyone has really started to see that they have, you know, we have the answers in ourselves and that's a lot of artists I think who have known that for a long time. Artists in the United States have been chronicling the now on walls for decades. Now we call it street art, I think in the past we have had kind of different names for it, one of the ones I think of is the Mexican muralists, and I'm thinking in the hiv-aids crisis, artists like Keith herring. They had an impact on the public's attention to that crisis, which of course was under recognized and ignored. What is beautiful about art and what we are seeing today, people are appreciating it in a very different way than they have before. What we are seeing are these conversations and they are making people want to act. This is an amazing piece. Jessica runs the winwood walls in Miami. America's Mecca for murals and big art. Said it's a sign of what is to come. We will have an interesting time in the next few months with our elections and I think you will see an interesting amount of art that is surrounding the topic of making sure that you vote. I think artists today are being seen in a leadership role unlike they have ever been seen before. One of those artists looking to push the conversation in to voting booths this November, los Angeles's Tristan Eden. Angela Davis has a beautiful history of activism and fighting for the freedom of back people in the country. Her story should be told and we have an election coming up so I painted vote around her with her shouting it. Back in June, Tristan made local headlines after this mural of mlk he created was defaced. I decided to paint martin Luther king as a sign of solidarity, and that was met with blow-back. So my mural was tagged with racist slurs. But Tristan was not going to allow that to detract from his message. It's easier to paint martin Luther king than malcolm-x, because he can be a divisive figure. So I thought, well, if they do that, I will paint again. If somebody paints over it, you paint over it again, and you go to wore with each other in a creative battle. It turns out that disrespect is something that every street artist knows. On the day of our interview with Vince, his mural had also been tagged. What happened? A lot of times if you leave too much space that doesn't look like it's occupied, somebody is going to come by and say, well, there's enough room for me right What is your plan to cover this up? Oh. I know now. I didn't until right this second. Right this second. Right here. Right this second. One thing that he kept saying repeatedly was I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I am sorry. While there were no shortage of walls, there's been no shortage of names and faces to paint. Vince said that the moment as been bitter sweet. Talk to me about really what this calling has been to you as an artist and as a black man? Never in my years of living on this planet has it been an advantage to be a black painter, it's kind of like I'm a commodity now, people are like now responding to my work. Like they never have before. As the summer comes to a close, the season of change continues. These artists continue to honor the lives lost. Most recently an icon. The notorious. And across the country, they are inspired, to lift the voices of those who are tired and sick, of being sick and tired. Transformation is on the horizon and we are kind of, there's an awakening where people are awakening, it makes sense that artists are at the vanguard of that. The world of graffiti is the largest secret society on the planet. We have access to the public space and I expect to see huge movement and a lot of noise from this world of people in the next few months. You call yourself a vessel every time I talk to you. The work is supposed to minister to people, people should come in front of the painting and if they are hurting because they lost a family member or hurting because of what is happening to the community. They are supposed to be inspired, they are supposed to be up lifted. Do you feel a responsibility to be out there as this is all happening kind of painting the story on the walls? Mlk, he didn't volunteer for the job. He didn't want to say I'm the leader of the civil rights movement. But when they came to him, and said, we want you to do this. I feel the same kind of way, it was like, I didn't ask for it, but, I feel like I do have a so, the art opened the door for this conversation.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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