There are 8 million stories in the naked city – that’s what we’ve heard. Street Artist Specter has recently brought back to memory one that many would like to forget, frankly, because it speaks to the undercurrent of racism that persists in our country, the burning embers of ignorance whose flames can be easily stoked given the right circumstances.
22 years after the racially motivated mob murder of a teenager in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a decaying memorial to Yusuf Hawkins still remains in another Brooklyn neighborhood called Bedford-Stuyvesant. The crime that caused the city to reel in pain was compounded by the fact that the cancer was appearing in such young fresh faced people; Yusef was 16, his assailants only slightly older. As the circumstances of his death revealed the level of polarization in the city, it sparked more unrest, violence, and marches in the streets.
A generation later, the memorial has withstood time, the natural elements, neglect and vandalism. Meanwhile our progress toward an equitable society is still very much in question.
To honor Yusuf, Specter installed a 14 by 14 foot hand-painted portrait adorned with flowers. The placement maintains former additions by other artists and much of the original wall painted by Brooklyn master-muralist, Floyd Sapp. As happens with many memorial walls, Yusuf’s mural was blanketed with scrawled messages to him and other fallen community members. In this latest piece by Specter, the Street Artist continues that tradition by adding to the historic wall now revitalized by the memory of a young man whose life was cut short.