This is a story about loyalty and striving for change against racism.
Artist Patrick Bachand, also known as Patman, decided to produce a mural depicting aspects of anti-Black racism, partly to mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder.
“We’re having this issue and it’s important to talk about it even though it’s awkward to talk about,” he told Global News.
He admitted that he needs help to understand racism since as a white French Canadian man he can’t always relate.
“So I picked the brains of all my friends that teach me on these subjects,” he explained.
The result was a range of ideas and emotions that he tried to express on a 20-foot waste container leftover from a mural competition he took part in.
Le Géant du conteneur, a Montreal South Shore company that rents waste and recycling containers that hosted the contest, gave the OK for him to use the extra container for the project.
“We thought it was really an amazing thing to do and we wanted to be part of it,” said Gabrielle Fortier.
The container, along with those involved in the contest, is available for rent.
Shelly Nurse, who is of mixed race but identifies mostly as Black, is a longtime friend of the artist. She told Global News Patman asked her to help him paint the mural.
“The whole time we’ve been doing it I’ve told him all my problems and a lot of the injustices that were happening to me because of the colour of my skin,” she said, “so I think he understands a little bit more.”
It’s for people like her — friends who’ve experienced racism — that Bachand poured his heart into the painting, he said. He added that all he was trying to do as an artist was help give voice to them.
“I just translated the feelings of all my friends, and all the pain or all the joy they have, into this work,” he explained.
Still, he admits that he feared getting it wrong, since he hasn’t experienced first-hand what it’s like to walk in Nurse’s shoes. “So for me, it’s like, I’m uncomfortable helping her,” he noted, “but I tried.”
While the project evolved to include a section about violence against women specifically, most of the mural is a series of small stories about racism in general, juxtaposed with messages of hope.
The image that moved Nurse the most was the image of George Floyd. On Friday as she and Bachand removed the stencil to unveil that part of the work, she broke down sobbing.
“We have to overcome this racism,” she declared. “We have to!”
According to Bachand, that’s the change he’s trying to help create.
“I can fix maybe some parts of the society we’re in, and maybe shake up the people that need shaking up.”