The North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence, a grassroots organization providing resources for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint neighborhoods, will be revealing a mural in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month on October 29. The mural, following the theme of resilience, is a collaboration between artists, community members, staff and clients.
“The idea was really thinking about the truth of it, which is that people who experience domestic violence or sexual assault are not lessened because of it,” Natasha Johnson, the executive director of the Coalition, told Bushwick Daily.
“They’re probably more the opposite of that than anything else. These are folks who oftentimes had their ideas of trust and intimacy and what it means to be connected to other individuals violated. Yet, they’ve been able to become some of the most courageous, most brave and resilient individuals that I’ve ever met. I think that this mural is really dedicated to them and sort of recognizing, honoring and elevating that idea and really shifting that narrative,” she continued in reference to the stigma of shame surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault.
The day-long celebration will begin at noon on Friday and will include a graduation ceremony for the clients of the Lideres program, an empowerment group in which individuals attend five to six sessions with a community organizer or case manager and learn to become community leaders themselves.
Murray’a Kelley, a supervising social worker of the Coalition, explained that the mural will be the culmination of a slew of events occurring during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“This month is really meaningful to us as an agency because it just shows how resilient our clients are and can be,” Kelley said, “and we’re supporting their needs. I’m going to present one of the clients with a small speech because I’m watching their growth and I’m really happy that they’re able to be in this space.”
The mural was possible because of a city artist grant donated by Jessie Davis, also known as DJ Nebraska, who will be performing at the reveal, along with other musicians. She will be releasing a single called “Never Have I Ever,” which you can pre-save on Spotify.
“I’ve been working with the Coalition as a client. They’ve been supporting me through my process. I just happened to mention that I got the grant and that I was looking for a wall to Natasha,” Davis told Bushwick Daily. “It’s been months of planning, and I’m so grateful we wound up partnering with the Coalition. One, there’s the personal connection. And to give to the space that has supported me in the process this much is really amazing.”
The proposal for the grant was written alongside Colombian painter and muralist Bochica, who has done the outlines for the mural and initially came up with the design of the mural — a woman among flowers — to engage with other local artists.
“Yes, this design is a woman who breaks into a million pieces,” said Bochica. “But from this break and pieces, the flowers start to grow. This is an analogy about how when we fall and we break, we are reborn as a phoenix.”
According to Bochica, the image was adapted to include flowers of the different countries the Coalition’s clients are from.
The mural takes up the wall next to the Coalition’s entrance. Then it goes into the building and up the stairs to the offices.
Bochica, who prefers to paint with paint spray, which is done outdoors, stated that the decision was made to form a stronger sense of collaboration where clients can paint alongside the artists.
“It is just flavor-craziness because we are so diverse,” said Bochica. “It’s like making a delicious soup when you are camping. ‘What do you have? Potatoes. What do you have? Broccoli. What do you have? Wheat. Okay, let’s do it.’”
“So each action is a different recipe,” he continued, “and each action is a totally different situation. But the goal is to elevate the energy.”
“The goal really with the stairwell was . . . as you start to approach our offices and as you start to ascend, hopefully, there is an ascension that happens within you as well,” added Johnson.
Painting sessions will take place Wednesday and Friday. People can sign up individually to paint alongside the artists. Other highlights of the event, alongside the mural reveal and the Lideres graduation ceremony, include a yoga session guided by Exhale to Inhale, a nonprofit organization Johnson had previously taught with, and music from various Latinx artists, including Mickey Perez and La Lulu, among others.
Bochica, himself, will be sharing a music album that was made with Abuela Daira, an Afro-Colombian human rights activist, and recorded in Bogota. Bochica had previously worked with her and the Afro-Colombian communities in Colombia to create La Fiesta del Platano. The festival included workshops that spread awareness on African culture, which included medicine from the forest and connecting with Orishas.
Friday will be spent with the community and is an attempt to normalize the conversation surrounding domestic abuse and sexual assault so people can have a better idea of what resources are out there.
“The invitation is for people to allow themselves to be at beginner’s mind,” said Johnson. “I say beginner’s mind because when you find yourself at the juxtaposition of beginner’s mind, you allow yourself to be contributed to, but you’re also not holding onto anything, so you can contribute to others.”
Johnson is currently working on various other projects that she said are very much connected to the work done at the Coalition in its mission to “intervene in the cycles of racial and family violence from an anti-racist, anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist and pro-feminist approach.”
She is creating an app for survivors of gender-based violence that will allow people to do their own safety planning and be connected to friends and family. You can follow Natasha Johnson on her Instagram account.
Bochica and Davis are also in the process of developing their own nonprofit, proyecto__tribu, which will use art as a method for cultural exchange, community building, healing and transformation as well as a way to bring awareness to social justice issues and sustain development goals.
To find out the location of the reveal and attend the event, RSVP to [email protected]
Images: Allie Herrera (unless stated otherwise)
For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.
Join the fight to save local journalism by becoming a paid subscriber.