Artist and community activist Lilada Gee was among those commissioned to paint murals on State Street following protests demanding reform after the death of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless others. Her work is vast, but it centers around one mission: defending Black girlhood, and she’s doing it with her organization and recent podcast, Defending Black Girlhood. You can learn more about her at lilada.org.
As told to Shelby Rowe Moyer | Photography by Shalicia Johnson
When I’m creating, I really want to display a message of, “Come closer, look closer.” And if I can pull the viewer closer — closer to Black girlhood, closer to Black women, Black women beauty, Black women femininity — then my hope is the next time you see a Black girl, when you interface with a Black girl, teach a Black girl, you can see her better.
The images that I paint are Black girls and Black women and showing them as I feel they have the birthright to be: smiling, being little girls, Black women with flowers in their hair, Black women happy, Black women at peace.
State Street has never looked so Black and beautiful.
And a lot of white people have stopped by to say, “Thank you. Thank you for doing this.” I want to be clear. I’m not doing this for white people to feel comfortable. This is not for you. This is not to erase the message that you don’t want to see. This is my interpretation of the messages.
Don’t get it twisted. I’m mad as hell. Just cause I’m painting a Black girl doesn’t mean I ’ain’t mad. I’m so mad that I’m gonna paint this big-ass Black girl on this wall, because I don’t want you to miss her. And I’m angry every time you do.
This is just our interpretation of Black Lives Matter. This is our interpretation of the various demands that we have upon society to make it equal. My art is my way of demanding reparations.
But it’s done in a way that inspires and elevates Black people, but it also speaks a message. It brings white people closer.
My call is to defend Black girls. My second call really is to white women, especially white mothers, because white women stand at the door of the places where so many of our Black girls are broken, like schools and social services.
Nobody in America is racist, but somehow you keep raising children that keep the status quo. So, I need white women to figure out why they keep doing it. If you’re going to be a helicopter mother, fly over your child and figure out why they’re the next person to carry on white supremacy. That’s your work. I don’t need you to tutor my Black girl. I need you tutor your white girl, who’s going to grow up to be a social worker.
Read more from our Solidarity in the City article here.