New Hyattsville mural aims to start a conversation
By Christina Armeni
A two-story Statue of Liberty sporting a pair of Air Jordans now lives on a wall off Farragut Street. Tucked between the post office and courthouse, a vibrant mural with two words, reparations and equality, in large letters has found a home in downtown Hyattsville.
“Before, this wall was just a white canvas and brick. You couldn’t have that conversation,” said artist Demont “Peekaso” Pinder. “Now, we provided something that’s colorful and bright. It welcomes you, I think, and welcomes you to have the conversation about this subject.”
The new mural adorns the Aventures Inc. building, 4328 Farragut Street, which comprises affordable and community-oriented workspaces for anyone from artists to students to insurance companies. Aventures Inc. strives to infuse art and creativity into the workplace, according to owner Stevie Jeffrey.
“My goal is to create a true space that is able to bridge divides and create authentic relationships amongst people who normally would not engage with one another,” Jeffrey said. He purchased the building in June of last year and opened it in March.
The mural project began over the summer. Founder of the Reparations Now Coalition (RNC), Sammy Sanchez, wanted a public call to action for reparations. The RNC works with organizations such as the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America to increase awareness of HR 40, a House lobbying bill establishing a commission to examine and recommend appropriate remedies for descendants of African American slaves.
At the same time that the RNC was looking to put up a mural in the DMV, Jeffrey was hoping to commission an artistic statement for the side of his building. Demont Pinder was able to fulfill both goals with one mural.
“My initial reaction was extreme joy,” Sanchez said, recalling the first time he saw the mural. “The piece told a story of reparations loudly and beautifully. I cried because it was overwhelming to see this piece come to life.”
Pinder was able to complete the mural in 24 hours spread out over a few days. The plan was to have it finished by Aug. 28, the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington.
“I think it’s so important to scream that Black Lives Matter at this moment,” Pinder said. “This might even be an uncomfortable conversation to a lot of people. But it’s a conversation that needs to be had.”
The more you examine the mural, the more deliberate details you discover. Lady Liberty is kneeling to light the flames of reparations for the people. The torch leads directly to the word equality and a group of protestors. A little girl in the crowd is wearing a pink tutu and a shirt commemorating Callie House, an influential leader for reparations after the Civil War. The Statue of Liberty is wrapped in a torn American flag.
“The heart is inside the [word] ‘equality,’ and the heart is symbolic for love,” Pinder said. “If people had a lot more love versus hate, how would the world be?”
Pinder was born in Queens, N.Y., but moved to Bladensburg when he was in elementary school. “Hyattsville had a major influence on my upbringing,” he said. Pinder and his friends would bike through the area and spend time in the Mall at Prince George’s. He attended High Point High School in Beltsville.
Pinder discovered his passion for art at a young age. As early as elementary school, he was known as the kid who liked to draw. He has since made a name for himself in the DMV, accumulating a portfolio that includes murals, canvas paintings and even clothing designs. His work has led him to meet and create art for celebrities like Aretha Franklin, Snoop Dogg and ASAP Rocky.
“Social media has definitely helped my career. It’s a way for me to communicate with the world, at the press of a button,” Pinder said. He has more than 43,000 followers on Instagram (@demontpinder).
Pinder’s online presence has also helped promote the mural, which has attracted a lot of attention since its reveal on Aug. 29. Jeffrey plans to add a patio where people can gather to sit and engage with others.
“In this space, the mural is a very good representation of Aventures saying to the community that we are taking note of what’s happening in our country,” Jeffrey said. “We want to be a voice to say it’s time to address some things in the past that have not been addressed, so that the racial gap that’s there can be eliminated.”
Christina Armeni is an intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times.