I’ve always appreciated people who stir the pot with intent to uphold justice or to challenge injustice. America is the home of great partiality. A kneel by a Black football player to protest police brutality and racial injustices was met with jeers and hatred, when not long ago, the same player experienced cheers and admiration while competing in the Super Bowl. Colin Kaepernick risked his entire football career to start some “good trouble.”
The term is oxymoronic. How can anything be good and trouble?
John Lewis, the late congressman, civil rights pioneer, and member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, coined the term “good trouble.”
Lewis stated, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
“Good trouble” in the 1960s often led to grave ends.
On March 7, 1965, John Lewis led a group of over 600 peaceful protestors from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to advocate for Black voting rights. Along the connecting bridge, Lewis, standing 5 feet 6 inches, approached an angry mob of police hellbent to do harm. This event is known as Bloody Sunday, as many individuals marching for voting rights were brutally beaten, including Lewis.
With a resume that includes thousands of protests, 45 arrests and 33 years in Congress, John Lewis is the epitome of an American Hero and a quintessential example of “good trouble.”
So, when was the last time you got into some “good trouble?” When’s the last time that you stood up for justice? Maybe even knelt for something you believed in?
I was honored to be a part of the planning team for the Indy Black Lives Matter Mural Project this past weekend. Malina Simone (master curator of the arts and also my girlfriend) and Stacia Murphy led a small group of community volunteers that also included Meisha Wide, Sibeko Jywanza, and Indy 10 Black Lives Matter. This small but mighty group of Black community leaders managed the entire project from start to finish.
We experienced some early challenges but figured the “good trouble” was worth the hassle.
So, about those challenges.
During the day of the installation there were two anti-Black Lives Matter protests occurring just a block away.
Thankfully, Rowley Security and the Indy10 Black Lives Matter team provided 24-hour security to protect all the artists, volunteers, and the street mural for four straight days. It felt like we were encapsulated inside of an army bunker with all the AK-47s and Humvees surrounding the perimeter.
We received a handful of threats, and there were some individuals that challenged our security team; however, we maintained a safe and peaceful environment as 18 Black artists worked collaboratively and beautifully to create one of the largest Black art installations in Indianapolis’ history.
In the 1960s performing artists were in the forefront during the Civil Rights Movement, with the likes of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye carrying the torch. In 2020, visual art is the motivating element of change that has inspired the world with hundreds of murals painted all across the country and beyond. “The mural won’t end racism,” Malina Simone acknowledges. “However, it is our hope and belief that the street mural will amplify the message of the movement and keep the conversation at the forefront.”
Here’s a list of every artist with their correlating letter or symbol:
The mural is located between the Walker Legacy Center and the Indianapolis Urban League on Indiana Avenue. It’s been endearing to see grandmothers with their grandchildren, longtime Indiana Avenue residents, Black fraternities and sororities, family members of victims and the entire city come together by this creative artistic convergence. This is our moment, Indy. This is “good trouble.”
Alan Bacon is a humanity advocate, community leader, musician and innovator. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.