By Robert Burgins, Jr.
The city of Bessemer has recently been plastered with eye delight. Any traveling highway 150 will be in for a treat that’ll be visibly seen.
By way of the Jefferson County Memorial Project and Blank Space of Birmingham, AL, the Bessemer community and city officials got just what they were hoping for. Colorful and unique, the murals depict encouragements of truth from the older generations to the youth. Bessemer’s own film star, Andre’ Holland, is captured along with bright students that’ll lead the coming generations.
Painter, Ms. Meghan McCollum (who’s painted thirty plus murals throughout her career, along with some of the most recent stellar mural art masterpieces seen throughout Jefferson County) was commissioned for the project with assistance from the talents of Ms. Mary Grace Tracy.
We spoke to Meghan, the wonderful artist who explained, “I was extremely humbled to be brought on for this project. I admire what Jefferson County Memorial Project does and why they exist, so I was very humbled to have the opportunity to facilitate the conversations of expressing one’s voice through art, by representing everything JCMP stands for.”
The Voices of Truth is a collaborative campaign which includes the Jefferson County Memorial Project along with Kids In Birmingham 1963 (an interracial group which consists of citizens who were kids living in Birmingham in 1963. Some are Foot Soldiers and some who weren’t even aware of the Civil Rights Movements, who share their truths through an online group, about race, camaraderie and social justices/injustices).
Jefferson County Memorial Project Executive Director, Ms. Gina Mallisham told us, “We seek to memorialize our citizens who’ve suffered racial terror attacks, as well as educating people on the histories of racial injustices along with advocating for Rights where injustices still reside. We encourage people to speak their truths, the true truth because there’s no power in watering down our history. So Voices of Truth encourages people to speak their truths while having conversations about race. We don’t believe you’re too young or too old to ever talk about race.”
After many discussions with focus groups throughout Bessemer, Gina said Bessemer residents didn’t want anything divisive, but something that’d speak to the youth and celebrate peace, unity and diversity.
The story depicted within the mural is to inspire our youths to own their truths along with highlighting a Bessemer creative who’s telling his stories in various ways, specifically film.
We asked Gina & Meghan what did this process and end result of storytelling through art mean to them and they said, (Gina) “Many times in society everyone’s voice isn’t heard, we have reverence for some. But to see this work, which is the most beautiful I’ve seen yet, makes me very proud to honor someone like Mr. Holland who’s allowing his voice to be heard, so that’s my favorite part of this particular campaign.”
Meghan went on to tell us, “The beauty of art is that it’s open to many interpretations. There’s freedom within it, and my intention behind the mural is defined by the core message of Owning Your Truth.”
Ann Jimerson, Director of Kids In Birmingham 1963 offered these words, “The folks in our group, Black and white, all came of age in Birmingham at the height of the civil rights movement. Working side by side with JCMP and FHI 360 to foster more conversation about race has opened doors for us elders to talk with younger generations too. The wisdom flows both ways!”
The latter part of Ann’s statement speaks volumes to a troubled society, whereas we should all understand that we can learn from each other.
You may learn more about JCMP at www.jeffersoncountymemorial.com or on Facebook under JCPM: Jefferson County Memorial Project or on Instagram @jeffcomemorial.
You may learn about the artists and their works on Instagram @marygracetracy as well as www.blankspacebham.com or on other social media platforms under @blankspacebham
We thank Ms. Mallisham (along with the Voices of Truth Collective) and Ms. McCollum and Ms. Tracy for their hard work and consideration.
The mural unveiling will take place on Friday September 29th at 6:00PM.
We’ll see you there to witness this magnificent contribution to our city.