It is important to see oneself worthy of representation in the images surrounding one’s home. In Jeffersonville’s Claysburg neighborhood, a new mural aims to drive that message home for its Black residents.
"Black communities have been searching for healing for centuries,” says Jeffersonville Public Art Commissioner Kofi Darku. “This mural is both acknowledgment and encouragement.”
The mural is affirmation of the community’s identity, and Darku hopes it will be a step toward revitalizing the area. Depicting area landmarks, the community garden, and the Louisville skyline, the mural is a bright neighborhood addition.
This first mural, at 201 E. 15th St., #2935 in Jeffersonville, happened with help from the Black Male Excellence organization’s “NEXT Narrative for Black America” campaign. Its goal is to move the discussion of racial equity from misinformation and “distortions” to one centered on the contributions of Black people and their communities. The organization awarded Darku one of 10 “BME fellowships” in January.
During his fellowship, he intends to engage community artists and those from the local area to create a series of images throughout Jeffersonville that align with the NEXT Narrative campaign’s focus.
Claysburg is a historically black area of Jeffersonville that was annexed in 1948. Until that time it was an area on the city’s northern edge where free black residents would settle and represents the “largest enclave of Black residents” near downtown. The area was named after Kentucky abolitionist Cassius Clay.
The first mural accompanies a community garden and is titled, “Soulful Nourishment.” It was painted by Louisville artist Kacy Jackson. In his project statement, his intent is to “enhance the community creative experience, provide a creative response” and to give the community a vibrant image that creates a source of pride.
It seems his efforts are already paying off.
“A handful of people from the Claysburg neighborhood have already let me know the sense of pride that this mural gives them,” says Darku. The 70 X 30-foot image is making area residents come alive with more ideas for their neighborhood.
During this time of civil unrest, Black Americans are seeking equity and justice for their communities. This mural is an element of the healing power of art. It explores ways to unite the community around a common image and themes that are uplifting to all.
Southern Indiana’s heritage embodies the good and the challenging aspects of our nation’s relationship with the African American community. It is Darku’s hope that this project can begin to heal some of the remaining divides.
“I hope that as Hoosiers we can all come together, eventually heal together and celebrate the rich culture that continues to grow in Southern Indiana.”
The mural is only a seed. It takes care to grow a garden, and with Darku’s leadership and the space to acknowledge and represent some of its unsung areas, Jeffersonville is on its way to a brighter future where all feel included.