Permanent record: Black Lives Matter and there is no place for hate at University Settlement

After spending much of 2020 fighting vandals who repeatedly destroyed a Black Lives Matter sign outside the University Settlement building, organization officials have created a permanent message of equity and inclusion.

A new, permanent mural was erected last week at the University Settlement building, 4800 Broadway Ave.

This past summer, with racial justice issues at the forefront in current events, University Settlement wanted to broadcast its message of tolerance and equity around its home in Slavic Village.

Organizers posted a sign outside its building stating, “Black Lives Matter/Hate has no place here.” They posted banner three times, each one bigger than the one before. Each time, vandals defaced the sign or pulled it down.

“We kept putting signs up, and they kept getting torn down,” says Jaliah Neely, University Settlement housing specialist. She says the vandals were even caught on security video the last time they tore down the sign, but no one has been identified.

So, Neely says they had to take action. “We asked, ‘what should we do?’—keep putting [the signs] up or give up,” she recalls. “I thought we should keep doing it and show how much equity and inclusion means to us.”

Neely’s coworkers agreed, and the team set out to place a permanent message on the side of the building. The group put out a citywide call for artists before hiring local digital artists Darin Gooch, aka Shakir, and Sampson Smiley, aka Sampson the Artist, to create a more permanent sign and design.

“We got our two [artists] and they knocked it out of the park,” says Neely.

Shakir and Sampson the Artist were able to collaborate remotely to come up with their design—a young girl wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, sitting in a field with ball of planet Earth in her lap, and a sign reading “Hate Has No Place Here!”

“And she’s wearing a mask, which is very 2020,” says Neely. “We gave them free rein and that’s what they came up with.”

Neely says she is pleased with the design and the message it sends—noting that there are butterflies flitting about and the girl has a crown hovering over her head. “I think it is awesome,” she says. “There’s some innocence to her and I think it helps put in in perspective who can be affected by hatred—and we don’t like that over here.”

Shakir and Sampson the Artist had Hotprints, a division of Hotcards, print the digital image on tarp-like material. The mural was then secured to the side of the University Settlement building.

University Settlement raised half of the $8,000 cost to design and install the new mural. The organization is now holding a GoFundMe campaign to raise the remaining $4,000.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.