As cities across the country painted streets with the words “Black Lives Matter,” Nicole Hines decided it was time for Nyack to join in.
A Nyack native, Hines serves as the assistant director for Nyack Center — a local non-profit that supports children, youths, and families through education and recreational programs — and says the mural was inspired by the youth activism in Nyack, such as the June 1 protest that drew more than 1,000 people.
“They are the next in line, the next leadership,” says Hines, who is also the advisor of the Nyack Center’s teen council. “We needed to hear and see them, starting with their first protest and then helping with the painting.”
To bring the Black Lives Matter mural to life, Hines approached local artist Kristina Burns. The two have a long history of collaborating that dates back to when Hines was Burns’ student in an after-school program.
“Everyone was there for a beautiful reason”
— Artist Kristina Burns
Burns figured out the logistics of the project, and made sure infrastructure was in place so anyone who wanted to participate could. She reached out to local artists to help with the mathematics and engineering of the mural. Rosa Martinez, deputy village clerk and deputy treasurer, volunteered to facilitate the closure of Main Street for the night of painting.
More than 100 community members met just before 10 p.m. on June 18 to paint the mural. After artists sketched out the letters, brushes were handed over to attendees, with Black members of the community making the first marks.
“It was amazing to watch [Burns] make sure Black people were the first to do it,” Hines says. “Leadership from the Black community is so important, especially [for] social and racial justice because Black leadership tends to get diminished by people.”
The turnout felt like “a barn raising,” says Burns. “Everyone was there for a beautiful reason and had invaluable conversations about racial injustice.”
The day after the mural was completed, two motorcyclists vandalized it during a Juneteenth rally. Immediately following the vandalization, community members stood in solidarity on Main Street to show that, in Nyack, actions like these are not tolerated, Hines says.
The community came out again that night to restore the mural, which, at press time, was intended to adorn Main Street until mid-August.
“When you do something good [that makes] people angry and upset, it just means that you made an impact,” Hines says.