January 6, 2021

Social Justice Public Arts Initiative- "Will You Be My Monument?"

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NEWARK (Jan. 5, 2021) — Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s Social Justice Public Art program is underway to give local artists big exposure and bring messages of enlightenment, hope and change.

"Our groundbreaking mural campaign does more than decorate our streets," Mayor Baraka said. "The murals help expand the creativity of the artists who produce them, they are meant to inspire our community, and they add to Newark's luster as a home for the arts. These projects bring hope, joy, and help to revitalize our city.”

Salamishah Tillet, the director of New Arts Justice, agreed.

"We're living in time that demands that public art represents the diversity and dynamism of the communities in which it is made,” she said. “To meet this moment, Newark artists are collaborating on murals and monuments that reflect who we are, and by doing so, are reimagining the vibrant possibilities of who we, as a city and nation, can be.”

One such mural is “Will You Be My Monument?” on Treat Place, which was inspired by the City of Newark's removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in the wake of the George Floyd protests.

The mural shows Faa'Tina, an 8-year-old girl in Newark, standing in front of the Columbus statue pedestal. The organization behind the mural, the Four Corners Public Arts (FCPA), one of 40 local art groups who received a grant from the city's Creative Catalyst Fund.

"Will You Be My Monument" is a collaboration between writer, Salamishah Tillet, her sister, photographer Scheherazade Tillet and designer Chantal Fischzang.

"Black girls are our most significant cultural producers, community connectors, and powerful organizers, but their contributions are rarely recognized or appreciated," Scheherazade Tillet said. "At best, they remain invisible in our public discourse and monumental landscape."

"My large-scale photograph of 8-year-old Faa'Tina next to the reflective typography and acrylic mirrors is a powerful intervention that asks us all to see ourselves through the gaze of Black girlhood," she said.

Another new mural called "This Guiding Light," located on McCarter Highway between Edison Place and Lafayette Street, also references the protests over police brutality and systematic racism.

A collaboration between an artist, Layqa Nuna Yawar, a photographer, Chrystofer Davis, and a poet, Jasmine Mans, the mural was described this way in a City statement.

"The mural documents both the collaborative creative power present in Newark today, and the collective power seen manifested in protests across the U.S. this year. Movements for Black lives against voter suppression, racism, xenophobia and for social and climate justice overlapped during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same overlap is present in the work of artists and culture workers as they reflect and witness these moments: a guiding light toward a better tomorrow.”

Property owners, developers and artists interested in sponsoring or collaborating on future murals throughout various wards in Spring 2021 can direct all inquiries and proposals to fayemi shakur, Arts & Cultural Affairs director, at