Last Sunday, hundreds of protesters gathered under a giant mural by Ahmaud Arbery in the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia, to demand justice ahead of jury selection in the trial against three white men accused of killing the black jogger.
According to NPR, Marvin Weeks — a Black artist who grew up in Brunswick — painted the Arbery mural which will serve as a symbolic place where community members can meet and discuss the issues of racial inequality that have plagued this country for so many years.
“I think it’s very important. A gathering place, you know, because my work really focuses on neighborhoods, ”Weeks told NPR. “Because there is always a meeting place – a place to phone and talk about ongoing issues,” he added. “I think the mural does that.”
As jury selection continues this week, the 67-year-old artist also hopes his works will inspire people to demand a fair trial. Greg McMichael and his son Travis, along with their friend William Bryan, are on trial for shooting Arbery, 25, while he was running in Brunswick’s Satilla Shores neighborhood. Bryan reportedly made a video of the shooting, which was made public months later, sparking protests and nationwide protests. According to United States today, the court has accepted 23 candidate jurors, but none have yet been appointed.
Weeks painted the mural on a building that will soon be an African-American cultural center. The stucco cladding of the wall was made of lime and seashells, a to treat slaves brought from Africa. This connection to history, along with its location, makes Weeks’ mural even more special.
As a young adult, Weeks moved to Miami to pursue his career as an artist, but he still remains connected to the community where he grew up. According to New Brunswick News, Weeks created the mural as an ode to the culture and rich history of the neighborhood.
Since Arbery’s murder last year, Weeks has visited the Golden Isles more often and wants to create more artwork for the town to highlight the region’s stories that may have -be neglected. According to NPR, he is currently working on an installation inspired by the Spanish moss oaks and salt marshes he admired as a child. The work will pay tribute to the heritage of Tunis Campbell.
“It will be a work of art for all of Brunswick,” he told NPR. “It shows the history of Brunswick, and African American history is not disconnected from general history.”
Learn more about Campbell’s legacy and Weeks’ ode to history through his art, according to the NPR report:
“I researched Tunis Campbell and the legacy he left along the coast that people kind of hid and didn’t talk about,” Weeks says.
Campbell was a key African American leader – a state senator and military governor for the former slave communities of Georgia’s Sea Islands. The former slave owners eventually drove them from the land.
Weeks says that not acknowledging everything that has happened here allows history to repeat itself. And that’s how he sees the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a little-known tragedy when it happened in February 2020.
Weeks is deeply connected with Arbery’s mural not only because of its location, but also the story behind it. The three white men who allegedly followed Arbery in vans moments before his assassination reminded Weeks of the racist events he experienced as a child in Brunswick.
“When I was a kid in this community, the van was a symbol of someone coming to hurt you,” Weeks said. CBS47. He remembered that white people would sometimes yell at him and even throw things.
“Anyone my age could tell you it was fear when you saw a van coming up,” he added.
Weeks believes that until people are able to have a real conversation about issues of racism, there will always be issues.
“I think we’re carrying on that old ‘everything’s fine, show everybody outside it’s fine,'” Weeks told NPR of his neighborhood story. “It hasn’t been good.”