Jaleesa Rosario Turner | AADL Black Lives Matter Muralist
Following the Ann Arbor District Library's Call for Artists in 2020, AADL installed a Black Lives Matter mural on the south side of Library Lane on Friday, May 21 featuring the works of eight artists.
Below is our interview with muralist Jaleesa Rosario Turner.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I grew up between Iceland, Japan, California, and Ann Arbor. I currently live in Philly and am a staff researcher at a startup. My research seeks to uncover the ways in which historic legacies of systemic oppression and suppression of those living at the intersection of art/development and marginalized communities inform human-computer interaction trust and behavior, user-created social networking development, and the future of digital IP law and policy.
Q: What's your earliest memory of making art and your earliest memory of being affected by art?
A: As a foreign-born Caribbean Afro-American, our art and culture IS my earliest memory as it was the way in which my family was able to educate my sister and I from an early age about where we are from. From the paintings to the fabrics and toys in my house as a child, my mother was the maverick when it came to making space for making and creating. My earliest memory of being affected by art was listening to Latin jazz in my mom's arms while watching the Northern Lights—the definition of magic.
Q: Tell us about your mural and your art.
A: This piece was born from two major events. The first is the BLM protests over last summer. I wanted to create a participatory arts and activism activity so I came up with the Summer of Solidarity project via jahjahjah.com, which is a tie-dye-based activity that attaches an action/act to a color. I re-created some of the slogans in a softer font as a way to create a new conversation and experience based on self-reflection and community accountability. The second reason for this piece, in particular, is that my little cousin Treasure was murdered by her white boyfriend in Lansing and her body was found in Ann Arbor—with ZERO acknowledgment from the news outlets and everything. So, on top of the collective experience of being Black in America, my family and I were also experiencing a traumatic incident that is still rooted in anti-Blackness and anti-Black womanhood. That is why I have her name and year around the heart.
There was an instance that sparked my arts & activism initiative and, of course, it was in the news: "Trauma suffered from racial slurs fuels Ann Arbor woman to promote social media solidarity" [MLive, September 7, 2020].
This is a dedication piece—to all of the Black/Brown and Indigenous womyn who were failed by the world. We honor them every day. I hope to utilize this design for the rest of my life as it is for me the most powerful.
I am influenced by the streets—old school graffiti throw-ups and shout outs, from prison-style to having family in the bandos throughout the world, my work with script, in particular, is a way to unite me with parts of my life and the feeling of knowing that art is everywhere and sometimes as a marginalized person you learn more from the walls and the streets more than you can in books.
The other main reason why this opportunity is so special and personal to me is when my family and I finally settled down in America, Ann Arbor was the place we landed. For me, I could not have imagined a better place to have my first major adolescent experiences, and the Ann Arbor Public Library—the downtown location, in particular, is the center of many of my most cherished memories. For many youths, prior to social media, the only place that was a constant safe place was that library. I got my first public library card there, met some of my best friends there, and we still reminisce about our days in the AADL. This location in particular has been a safe space for me, and to have this full-circle moment now that I finished my secondary degrees and left Ann Arbor again, I am so proud to know I not only left my mark on one of my favorite places back home but I hope my messages along with the other amazing artists encourage the next generation of kids to find community in this place as well.
AADL Black Lives Matter muralist interviews:
- T'onna Clemons
- Quadre Curry
- Demario Dotson
- John Rodriguez
- Jaleesa Rosario
- Rachel Elise Thomas
- Curtis Wallace
- Avery Williamson