Let’s build something impossible together. – Devon Walls
In the aftermath of the brutal killing of George Floyd, the public outcries for racial justice have swept the nation and the globe.
In Chester, a group of local artists, led by Devon Walls, moved quickly to turn a proactively boarded up storefront into a vivid rallying point for a community in pain.
Devon, an Untours Foundation investee through New Day Chester, has already been a force to reckon with as he has spearheaded efforts over the past few years to build a vibrant hub for artists and artisans in a district of Chester long plagued by poverty and neglect.
The following excerpt from a recent article in the Delco Times by Kathleen E. Carey describes the mural and what prompted Walls and other artists to seize the opportunity to transform a surface meant to keep people out into an expression of community solidarity and resistance.
The artwork included bold, vivid images of George Floyd and Sandra Bland, along with silhouettes of protesters and a child with an adult asking, “Am I Next?” Phrases like “I Can’t Breathe,” “Sandra Bland Say Her Name” and “Black Lives Matter” swirled around the figures.
“We don’t want the community to be boarded up,” Devon “Starshooterz” Walls, the force behind The Artist Warehouse and MJ Freed Theater, said. “To us, that’s a sign of defeat. So, we said, ‘If they are going to be boarded up, we’re going to put murals on them.’”
“The main thing that needs to be known about this mural and not just George, I’m talking about Sandra, I’m talking about all the people who were killed at the hands of police officers who were meant to protect and serve, that our lives do matter,” he said. “We’re policed in black communities by white police officers who don’t know the community, who don’t know the families and they come into our communities scared of us already.“
The Untours Foundation has a long history of investing in Chester to support entrepreneurs, housing and the arts. Hal and Norma Taussig had an eye on Chester from the very beginning of the foundation’s existence and always felt the duty of care to uplift a neighbor in need. Building self-sufficiency and resiliency is a long-term project and we are proud to have been working alongside inspirational leaders in Chester like Devon Walls for so many years.
This article was written by Alix Rabin, founding Untours Foundation board member and former president. She has served for 25 years on our board!