“Daddy changed the world.”
Those were the words spoken by George Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna, a smile on her face, just days after her father died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officer Derek Michael Chauvin, who was fired and now faces second-degree murder charges.
No doubt Gianna was right. Her father’s death has sparked an international response — from Denver to the coal-mining town of Gate City, Virginia, to Tehran, Iran. Protests have already led to law enforcement policy changes in cities nationwide and reignited the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gianna's words are now inscribed on a mural outside the Denver Sports Castle at 1000 Broadway, one of three paintings by Karlee Mariel and Armina Jusufagic created in solidarity with the protests that have taken over downtown Denver for more than a week. That painting depicts Floyd, looking forward and proud.
The artists, who painted a mural of two masked women kissing on East Colfax Avenue last month, had plans to paint a similar mural of two men kissing in response to COVID-19. But after Floyd died, they threw themselves into the Black Lives Matter struggle and these murals.
“We’ve been down there protesting,” says Jusufagic. “We feel like we should do something, and the way we can give back to the community is art.”
Another mural includes the words "Black Lives Matter" along with two hearts, one with rainbow colors and a black hand, and another with the names of African-Americans, including Floyd, killed by the police.
“The names are important to contribute, to remember the people that have fallen, to remember the people who have been taken advantage of, who gave up their life to some ignorant cop who has major issues and is racist,” says Mariel. “As an artist, I want to stand up for others; I want to show up for others and be an ally. That’s what we’re doing showing the face of George Floyd and naming the names.”
A third painting depicts Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and civil-rights activist who sparked a national conversation about police violence and racial injustice when he sat and then knelt during "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the start of games, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter — an action that ultimately cost him his job.
For a fourth mural in the works for the building, the artists plan to paint images depicting black leaders throughout the city.
"We want to contribute, and our way is through muralism," says Mariel. “It’s a way to contribute to the people protesting and the legacy George Floyd has created.”