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Mural at Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial to commemorate George Floyd

Members of the community wore masks and gathered to paint three murals to be placed near the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.

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Painters put finishing touches on the three murals created Monday near the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. The community mural project was filmed for the documentary “I Can’t Breathe: A CJM Memorial.” The documentary premieres on Monday as part of the Annual Day of Remembrance for Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie, the victims of the 1920 Duluth lynchings. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
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People of all ages and backgrounds, paintbrushes in hands, surrounded three colorful murals laid on the ground near the intersection of First Street and Second Avenue East on Monday. The main subjects of the paintings are George Floyd, an African American man who was killed by the police during an arrest in Minneapolis ; Breonna Taylor, a young African American woman fatally shot by the Louisville Metro Police Department in March; and a raised fist.

The community mural painting was one of several events planned in June to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the public lynchings of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie in downtown Duluth . Local artist Moira Villiard reached out to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial board to arrange the community painting day.

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Artists Delphin Niyonkuru (left) and Moira Villiard confer Monday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

"The goal of this is to provide space for people to use their voices in different ways," Villiard said. "I started with a rough idea of how things will be laid out, but then I opened it up to anyone to decide what will be represented and how. I don't give any rules. I don't tell them what they should and shouldn't write."

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Young Duluthians Cam'ron Magee and Latesha Houston searched for the right paintbrushes to add their names and the quote, "Freedom is ours." Daisy Quaker added a quote from novelist James Baldwin: "Nothing can be changed unless it is faced," in yellow paint.

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Rowan Gervais (from left), Daisy Quaker, and Moira Villiard finish a painting of Breonna Taylor Monday. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was fatally shot in her home by Louisville, Ky, police officers on March 13. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

"It's something that's really stood out to me as all of this was unfolding," Quaker said. "It's a quote that stood out to me because even like the video of what happened to Floyd and all the stories that are coming to the surface of the injustices going on are really difficult to sit with and read. But it’s important to read those stories and be aware of what’s going on because without that awareness you can’t really do anything.

After members of the community made their marks on the murals, Villiard and fellow artist Delphin Niyonkuru filled up left over space by adding in the names of victims of police brutality. Niyonkuru also added a fist grasping an American flag on the George Floyd painting.

"For me, this is a way to express myself," Niyonkuru said. "You can talk and speak all you want, but it doesn't always last. When you put something down in paint and make it visual, hundreds of people can pass by and see it and it can say so much more."

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Detail of the mural of George Floyd. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

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Niyonkuru also said he was glad to see the variety of ages and backgrounds adding to the painting as "it shows solidarity."

"This is about systematic change and we need everyone on board for that," he said. "So to see many different people here is a good start."

The murals will be placed along the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial when completed.

Related Topics: GEORGE FLOYD
Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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