Council agenda to include proposed ‘End Racism’ mural downtown

Shown here is an image of what the End Racism mural would look like.

The upcoming City Council regular meeting agenda includes giving the city staff the go-ahead to work with an activist group to have the words "End Racism" painted on part of the pavement on Falls Road downtown at an estimated cost of $15,000 to $20,000.

The agenda item apparently is a follow-up to a presentation by Cooper Blackwell to the council on Aug. 10 calling for a Black Lives Matter mural project.

The council's regular meeting is set to start at 7 p.m. on Monday and the item calls for the council to approve the collaboration and the spending.

The regular meeting agenda says the proposed End Racism mural would be on the part of Falls between the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd and an old railroad track-side loading dock.

A memorandum and an attached map from Assistant City Manager Elton Daniels, as part of the council agenda, said a request was made to research information in reference to having the phrase Black Lives Matter or a similar message on a street or a road within the city limits.

Daniels in the memo said the request was to determine a location that would ease safety concerns but also be highly visible.

Daniels in the memo said after considering several options and consulting with the Rocky Mount Black Action Committee and the state Transportation Department, the city staff is of the opinion the part of Falls behind the church would satisfy this request.

And Daniels in the memo stated the $15,000-$20,000 cost estimate and stated the amount would include the cost for materials and a $250 stipend for minority and women artists, not to exceed 10 in number.

Blackwell’s presentation on Aug. 10 was the first time viewers of municipal government business got the chance to hear specifics since the Telegram on July 9 reported the city appeared to be interested in having the words Black Lives Matter painted on the roof of the old track-side loading dock.

The dock is just on the opposite side of the rail line from the Rocky Mount Event Center.

The Telegram reported that a document, as posted on the city’s website, showed Candice Kirtz, the purchasing manager in the Finance Department’s purchasing division, requested a quote from vendors for a project titled, “Black Lives Matter Painting.”

Blackwell is a son of Councilman Reuben Blackwell.

Cooper Blackwell also is the local NAACP’s representative on the Rocky Mount Human Relations Commission.

Cooper Blackwell also represents the Black Action Committee, which is a youth-led movement that led a peaceful protest on May 31 at the since-removed Confederate monument just south of the U.S. 64 interchange with Benvenue Road.

The gathering was held to call attention to African American George Floyd, who died on May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death prompted protests and riots in numerous cities.

Cooper Blackwell addressed the council on Aug. 10 during a council work session and after the council had met in an extensive closed session.

After Cooper Blackwell spoke, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney told the council that in the interest of time, she would advise accepting his proposal, getting back with him later and finalizing this to bring a recommendation to the council.

Councilman Andre Knight, who as mayor pro tem chairs council work sessions, expressed appreciation to Blackwell for his presentation, to the rest of the Black Action Committee and to other organizations.

Knight is the leader of the local NAACP and also is the board chairman of the Opportunities Industrialization Center.

Reuben Blackwell is CEO of the OIC and Cooper Blackwell also works there. The OIC seeks to help provide residents with employment training and health care.

The 7 p.m. regular meeting is going to be preceded by the council meeting at 5 p.m. to go into a closed session.

The council is citing the attorney-client privilege exemption to the state Open Meetings Law as the reason for the need to meet behind closed doors.