Adding To A List Of Those Killed By Police, 'We Have A Stack Of Names'
On a black wall on North Davidson Street just outside uptown Charlotte, artist Alex DeLarge has painted 25 names in huge, white letters. Many are ones we’ve all heard: Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, George Floyd.
They are the names of black men and women who have died at the hands of police, painted just above another wall where DeLarge has sprayed enormous graffiti letters that spell out, “Black Lives Matter.”
“People have been giving me a list of names, people have been reaching me for names to add, people close to them and stuff like that," DeLarge said. "It’s kind of sad. There’s more coming. We have a stack of names.”
On Tuesday, DeLarge added the name Marlon Lewis.
Lewis’s family drove from Badin, about 45 miles away, to watch as the letters were spray-painted on. A niece and nephew climbed a ladder to add the finishing puffs of white paint.
Lewis died in December 2016 when Stanley County Sheriff’s deputies Tasered him 26 times in less than five minutes after responding to his 911 call for distress. According to reports, police said the 39-year-old told them “someone is going to kill me,” fought officers and repeatedly grabbed for their holstered guns that night. No criminal charges were filed, but the family settled a lawsuit.
Lewis’s oldest sister, Marcia Watkins, contacted DeLarge immediately after she saw the artist’s new mural on Instagram. She asked for her brother’s name to be added.
“We tried to keep a memorial up in our community, but the police kept taking it down," Watkins said. "So when I saw this, I called him and asked if he’d consider adding my brother’s name to his mural. And he said right away, yes he would.”
It turned into a family reunion of sorts as three of Lewis’s sisters and his brother gathered next to the building housing NoDa Market & Deli and Abari where the murals are painted. Every few minutes, strangers walked past to pose for photos next to “Black Lives Matter,” oblivious to the ceremony taking place on the wall above them.
For DeLarge, it’s an opportunity to play a small part in the Black Lives Matter movement, drawing attention to stories and names that might otherwise be overlooked.
“A lot of people get to pretend like this doesn’t happen," he said. "A lot of people don’t even hear about when this happens. Like this family; a lot of people reached out to me and asked me, ‘Oh, I never heard of this. Who are these people? What happened?’
“I’m afforded a great lifestyle because I paint pictures on walls. Throughout all of this, obviously I’m brown and I’ve dealt with racism throughout my lifetime. I have nieces and nephews who are Mexican, Blaxican, a swirl of ethnicities, and I know they’re going to deal with it growing up. I just felt like it was the least I could do.”
Watkins says she’s going to bring her brother’s 13-year-old son to the mural soon. Josh Lewis will be able to see his father’s name up there, nestled among a growing list that serves as a sad reminder.
This story originally appeared in our weekly arts and entertainment newsletter, Tapestry. Subscribe here.
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