BLM Columbus Mural Project
In late May 2020, protests started arising across the United States (and the world) over the deaths of: Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd. After going to a protest on night 2, Julia and a group of her friends (10 mins after arriving to the peaceful protest) were cornered, separated and sprayed with pepper spray while being compliant with police orders to disperse. She was just misted with the spray (which led to a burning sensation all over her body, gagging, and burning eyes), but saw her friend's partner grabbed while having his hands up and sprayed directly in the face. They ran around a corner of a building where they found news anchors doing a live feed and 3 Blue Lives Matter t-shirt wearing young adults huddled together crying that they wanted to go home but didn't know where to go (the police were surrounding the area). After trying to get the pepper spray out of their eyes and mouths and finding their separated friend, they left the protest. The next day, Julia thought a midday/morning protest would be better to go to then another night protest. So, she took her mom and went downtown to protest. Within 20 mins of arrival, police were spraying peaceful protesters. Her mom courageously helped people away from the spray, covered a baby from being sprayed, and even went to the front lines when asked. Julia--still shaken from the night before--helped by pouring water and milk on those who had been sprayed.
After experiencing all of that and feeling discouraged to do what she knows best (protest), Julia thought there had to be another way of going about helping the Black Lives Matter movement. A day later, she saw 934 Gallery posted a picture of their windows boarded up and reached out. She wanted to do an extension of her series "Rainbow Faces". After the Gallery agreed, Julia asked a few other artists, and activist friends if they would like to be involved. To her surprise, on the first day of painting, 20+ people joined in color blocking, painting, and writing the names of the victims of racial violence/police violence on the boarded up windows. By the second day, Julia and her team were finished with the whole mural.
A couple days later, Julia received a call asking if anyone had done a mural of Sarah Grossman and after asking around and looking around the Short North, she decided to do a one in order to honor the protester who died shortly after being sprayed at one of the blm protests. After talking to the friends of Sarah, she concluded that the autopsy was not fully complete and wanted to respect the wishes of her family to not connect CPD to the cause of Sarah's passing. Instead, Julia focused on Sarah's life and the things she loved. Her favorite plants: ginkgo trees, violets, and mary jades. Her Favorite colors: purple and green. And her favorite moon: 78% waxing gibbous.
Sarah's story adds to the curiosity surrounding the actions taken by police before, during, and after these protests. Even though, we cannot fully say that her cause of death was due to CPD...in some sense, Julia wonders, if the trauma that Sarah went through of being sprayed could have caused a reaction in her body which ended up leading to her passing. It is something we should all ask ourselves as a society--is this how we want the people who are hired to protect and serve us to act? Do we want this kind of violent actions (shootings, beatings, pepper spray, and killings) governing our society? Although, Julia continues to go to protests, she is very much aware of the dangers police bring to these calls for action.