Black Lives Matter: Volunteers paint mural on Main Street in Burlington

Groups of masked volunteers transformed Main Street on Sunday from an artery for traffic entering and exiting downtown Burlington to their canvas for a statement of social justice.

Volunteers like 8-year-old Faiza Jafar took the Burlington city councilors up on their invitation to help paint a Black Lives Matter mural. 

Why did she come from South Burlington to help with the mural? 

“Black lives matter, and I’m Black,” Faiza said. 

City councilors unanimously passed a resolution on Monday to create the two-block street painting. In June, the Montpelier City Council also approved the painting of a similar mural in front of the statehouse. Gov. Phil Scott expressed support for the statement. 

Faiza worked on rolling paint between the outlines of the letter A in “Black” as her older sister and younger brother looked on. She eventually handed the paint roller to her siblings, jumping in a few times to help her brother, Tariq, refill the roller.  

Dawn Fitzgerald of Burlington worked a few letters down from the Jafar siblings. She said that she volunteered in solidarity with her 16-year-old daughter who was taking a phone call just beyond the taped off painting area. 

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Fitzgerald, who is white, said that she had not known her daughter felt racial injustice because she had always thought their city was diverse. Her daughter, Haley Walker, opened up to her about her experience of being Black in the aftermath of George Floyd’s May 25 death after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for almost 9 minutes. 

“I will never know what it’s like to be Black,” Fitzgerald said.

She explained that Haley grew up without seeing Black adult role models in her school and also being the only Black person in a room. Haley works to advocate for social justice by starting a social union group at her school.

Dawn Fitzgerald, left, and her daughter Haley Walker, 16, stand together after taking their turn to help pain a Black Lives Matter mural on Main Street in Burlington on July 19, 2020.

Hannah Vickery, 25, of St. Albans worked at the end of the mural closest to St. Paul Street. She had heard about the event that morning on Facebook.

“It’s really cool to literally do something tangible,” Vickery said. 

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She said that taking action against racial injustice is important to her. Beyond helping with the mural, she writes to the police department to inquire about their plans to conduct anti-racist trainings. She said that she also tries to highlight the contributions of Black people on her social media posts. 

Contact Emilie Stigliani at 802-660-1897 or estigliani@gannett.com. Follow on Twitter: @EmilieStigliani.

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