I AM A MAN
The work depicts a 1968 photograph displaying a suited gentleman holding a sign that reads “I AM A MAN”. The original photo is credited to the late Bob Adelman and the protest referenced is the Memphis Sanitation Strike.
Currently four stories in the sky, peering over the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line elevated tracks, the painting acts as a symbol of artistic vitality for past and present times. Visible to commuter passengers on the train and pedestrians on Wicker Park’s Milwaukee Avenue, I AM A MAN provides cultural vibrancy embedded in a difficult discussion of police brutality: the fight of black & brown bodies against centuries of systemic oppression and basic civil rights.
WHY I AM A MAN?
A excerpt from a story, told by Darius Dennis:
“Days after George Floyd’s murder, I handed a twenty dollar bill to a cashier in Brooklyn to pay for my coffee and cigarettes. The cashier took the bill, looked at it under the light, and said, “A twenty dollar bill, mmmhmmm, a real one,” with a smile. Despite my face mask, he could still tell that his “joke” bugged me.
...The next week I reached out online for a “wall that I can paint with full artistic freedom.” Chicago friends immediately replied, making it possible for my team and I to paint our first mural in Wicker Park: I AM A MAN, a 50’ tall by 15’ wide work, completed on June 29, 2020.”
SECURING THE SPACE
Being a four story coop in Wicker Park, Chicago - the conversation began from an online call ending with a group text, with every resident agreeing loud and clear: “Yes.” We absorbed all costs, with some support from close friends and gathered what we needed to paint the mural.
PREAPARING THE MURAL
We mixed our paint at our home base in New York, where we all work throughout the year with Colossal Media. With their in-kind support of paint and materials, the team went to work. Robin Alcantara and Nicole Greco-Lucchina prepared the drawing (grid), Robin burned the “patterns,” (our transfer paper) while Darius Dennis and Jared Diaz mixed the paint.
PROJECTING THE STORY
I AM A MAN sitting in view of Milwaukee Ave and Wolcott, front and center before the Blue Line between Damen and Division. Initially expecting two or three painters. Having a team of four allowed us to make the most of every second on the wall, to make the best painting we could for the city of Chicago. Beginning on June 23, 2020: Darius Dennis, Robin Alcantara, Jared Diaz, and Ephraim Gebre painted the project to completion in about seven days.
I AM A MAN GALLERY
Enjoy all the images below that show the journey of creation. Feel free to share this page with others and tell the stories of John Lewis and heroes alike.