In Tulsa

City Begins Removal of Black Lives Matter Mural

TULSA–The city of Tulsa began a street improvement project on Monday removing a Black Lives Matter street mural in North Tulsa’s Greenwood District.

A local artist vowed that the street art’s message of racial justice would live on through other murals throughout the city.

“We’re going to keep painting the town yellow, and we’re going to keep spreading the message and the fact that Black Lives Matter,” Briana Shea, a Tulsa artist and writer, said Monday.

“It is heartbreaking because this was the one that sparked the fire to get all the other ones painted and this is the one that brought the community together time after time after time and it was a beautiful thing.”

The mural is on Greenwood Avenue in the Black Wall Street area.

The street project’s targeted area is Greenwood from E. Archer Street, north for 300 ft. and will involve removing the top surface of the road, patching underneath the surface and then overlaying the roadway surface with asphalt, according to a news release.

The City Council recommended that the street project initially planned for March 2021 be accelerated to remove the street mural that sparked a wave of controversy across the city. 

A majority of council members recommended the mural removal because it was painted on the street without a city permit and they received numerous complaints about it.

The news release said the project was to begin on Monday.

Miss Shea and other supporters of the mural expressed disappointment that the project began about 4 a.m., a few hours earlier than they said they were led to believe it would begin.

Miss Shea helped lead a group of artists and others to paint the mural on June 18.

They started painting an hour before midnight and worked overnight, saying they wanted to finish in time for the Juneteenth celebration in Greenwood.

A spokesman for the painters said they thought the donated paint used was water soluble and would be temporary.

City spokesmen said the mural’s painting set a bad precedent.

Councilor Vanessa Hall Harper, the only Black on the City Council, and Councilor Kara Joy McKee were among the supporters of the mural. 

The two hoped the city would allow the street art to remain at least until the planned street improvement project originally set for March 2021.

Councilor Harper said Greenwood Avenue is divided between District 1, which she represents, and District 4, with the Inner Dispersal Loop.

The Greenwood business district where the mural is located is in Councilor McKee’s District 4.

Councilor McKee said she was aware of a proposal by a private group to vacate a street in the Greenwood District so that the mural could be placed on a private street.

She said she was hoping that would happen before the mural on Greenwood Avenue mural was removed.

The District 4 council member said she was heartened by a recent effort by some Tulsa churches to paint Black Lives Matter murals on their church properties.

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