As peaceful protests continue to be held in Toronto and other cities across North America after the death of George Floyd in the United States, dozens of graffiti artists have converged downtown to show their support.
Moises Frank, a graffiti artist, was one of the organizers behind the #PaintTheCityBlack event that saw more than 40 artists come to Toronto’s Graffiti Alley beginning on the weekend. He told Global News he was motivated to create the event after the #BlackOutTuesday social media challenge, adding artists came together “overnight.”
“We’re using our artistic talents to speak about the injustice that happens to Black and Brown lives,” he said.
“It’s really beautiful to see graffiti artists come together for a cause that’s so important.”
Jessey Pacho, a graffiti artist, said he also helped organize the event. He showcased his piece, which is the painted name “Big Floyd.” Pacho said it is in honour of Floyd, adding it was his stage name as a MC.
For Pacho, he described why the project and the recent protests inspired him to be involved.
“As a Black man living in this city, I’ve faced some of the things that we’re protesting again,” Pacho said.
“This is greater than graffiti. We’re really speaking to something. Arts are transformative, so this is a really good opportunity for graffiti to be seen and appreciated and actually paid attention to.”
Pacho said the video and the circumstances of Floyd’s death began “weighing” on him mentally in the days that followed.
“A lot of the imagery that was being shared was about the victimization of it,” he said.
“For a long time people have been silent because they’ve been uncomfortable or because it was never their issue and they never had to get involved. But now we’re seeing it’s really not OK and enough is enough.
“Now more than ever is the time for people to speak up and to call out injustices and to have the difficult conversations that have always been hard.”
Pacho also said he has been encouraged by conversations surrounding defunding police and reinvesting money in community initiatives.
“I think these things are so important and it really does restore some faith in humanity,” he said.
“These are issues here and now that are right in our own backyard — it’s not just an American problem.”
Meanwhile, Frank and Pacho encouraged people to share their artistic expressions and for those who want to participate to share their work on social media with the hashtag #PaintTheCityBlack.
“I want to see more murals come up around our city and more opportunities for people of colour that speaks to these issues,” Frank said.