Organizers plan to finish Black Lives Matter Mural Saturday

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Organizers say they plan to finish the Black Lives Matter mural Saturday that was started over July 4 weekend.

At one point, organizers began painting the Black Lives Matter street mural without permit, however, eventually, the city granted the organizers with a permit that would allow them to finish the mural by Monday, July 13.

The mural, has also seen push back from a Knox County school board member.

Evetty Satterfield, the Knox County Board of Education representative for Austin-East Magnet High School, has asked the city of Knoxville to remove the Black Lives Matter mural painted in front of the school by community activists without city approval, before the permit was granted.

In an open letter posted on Facebook, Satterfield asked the city of Knoxville to remove the Black Lives Matter mural on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in front of Austin-East High School before the 2020-2021 school year begins.

The District 1 representative expressed concern about future demonstrations at the site and the mural being a painful reminder of racial inequality to students.

“The Black Lives Matter mural on Martin Luther King Jr Ave was not an inclusive community event, but could have been if the proper processes had been followed. The property most effected, Austin-East Magnet High School, was left out of the planning, organizing and implementation. Austin-East will have to carry the burden of what could potentially transpire in the future. Be it counter-protest, defamation, large gatherings of people celebrating or simple upkeep for years to come. Austin-East, by default, now becomes responsible. And frankly, they should not be forced to carry that weight.

The amount of attention, confusion, and divisiveness that has transpired brings grave concern about what will happen when our scholars return to their beloved school. While Black Lives Matter is liberating for some, it is just as triggering for others. Our scholars have endured the unimaginable since they left our care in March of 2020. By simply coming to school, our scholars will be reminded of the strife happening in our nation. Daily reminders of such can and will cause harm to their psyche, be it consciously or subconsciously. Schools are a safe haven for kids, and we do everything in our power to counteract the unwavering forces our scholars have to endure on a daily basis. Adverse Childhood Experiences have a tremendous effect on our academic growth, and we are running the risk of imposing even more trauma to our most vulnerable population – children.”

Evetty Satterfield, Knox County Board of Education, District 1

On the contrary, business owners on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue are speaking out about the mural.

Bill Bourne owns Jarnigan and Son’s Mortuary, which sits right across the street from Austin-East High School; he says there are far worse things that could happen in the neighborhood.

“It’s just paint, it’s not blood.” Bourne said.

Bourne says he thinks the mural brought more unity than division.

“I’ve not had any negative comments about it. I saw all different colors of children out there and their parents working. It wasn’t just Black.” Bourne said.

Despite petitions against it, and local leaders calling for its removal, the people who actually work and spend significant time on Martin Luther King say they feel differently.

Jerrick Jones operates Just Blaze Hot Dog stand, right next to Austin-East High School. He says he thinks the mural is a good thing for the community.

“I think it’s a good start for us in the community. I think it’s a great start for East Knoxville, for Martin Luther King and it’s super cool for me.” Jones said.

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