Within about 5 blocks of 24th and Wood, I saw an artist painting a large mural on the side of a building that easily spanned several blocks. I was curious by the painting and I was also curious about why he was painting it.
So I flipped a U-turn and talked to the artist. This was the scene when I pulled up
Michael Che Romero poses in front of his project.
He was still up on his ladder when I pulled up and parked on the street. He was totally engrossed in his work.
He stopped with the spray can and turned and noticed me. He greeted me cheerfully and climbed down the ladder. His name is Michael Che Romero. He is the Creative Director for Vivache Designs ( http://www.vivachedesigns.com ). Be sure to check out his website for some cool artwork and videos. (I post a couple below that came from the website.)
In our conversation, I discovered that he drove up from Los Angeles to paint this piece on this large building located at Mandela Parkway and Perralta. He said that he does a lot of projects on the streets and he approached the building manager to get permission to paint this one. He said that he had to be careful to not offend the territories of the street gangs. I told him I loved the mural and that it reminded me of the artwork of Gerald Scarfe from the Pink Floyd album “The Wall.” He chuckled at that.
Updated on 9-2-19: After I sent Michael the link to this post, he sent me a link to his Instagram account and I saw this post of the finished product. I love it. I wasn’t sure where he was going with it and now that I see it, I am blown away. It is a perfect mural for many of us and those in the community in which this mural resides. Fear no more is a message for all us. Often times FEAR is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. What I love about Michael’s mural is that it reminds us all that we have power. We control our own lives. We have the power to give it away or to hold on to it. When we give it away, however, we make ourselves more susceptible to fear, low self-esteem and powerlessness.
I know many people in my life who simply choose not to try to succeed because they have the fear of failure. That fear has taken their power away. Or more accurately, they have given that life power away due to that fear. Nobody has more influence over your life than you. You are in control. If you want to give it away that is within your control. If you want to keep it, that is within your control. If you to take it back after having given it away, that too is within your control.
The mural shows a person standing down the “monster” and by so doing, keeping control of his own life. As I think about the people I met at 24th and Wood, I see many of them try to do the same thing. They are trying to take back control and hold on to as much of it as they can.
In fact, I am trying to do the same thing. While I may not be facing the exact same challenges as them, or I may not have a big ugly monster trying to get me, I certainly have plenty of challenges, obstacles and my own “fears” to deal with.
Thanks to Michael, I am reminded that I have the power to FEAR NO MORE.
The finished mural titled, “Fear No More”
Michael was super chill to talk to and was very willing to pose for a portrait. I would have loved to really worked the portrait, but I was short on time, as I had to get to the airport. I also only had two lenses with me as I was traveling light. Nonetheless, it was fun getting the few pix that I did.
Upon reflection, it is interesting to note the difference and similarities between the residents and their work at 24th and Wood and the work that Michael and others do in the very nearby communities. There is loads of creativity, imagination, hard work and beautification going on throughout each area. The differences revolve around choices, opportunity and financial situation. None of that is said with judgment. When each of us has the resources and time, we can be our best. And even when we don’t have the resources and time, we can still be our best and do our best. I saw ample evidence of that at 24th and Wood and throughout the immediate community.
On my first visit, I felt a little shocked, scared and sad about the situation for the 24th and Wood community. Now I look at it differently.
While I am sure there could be some changes that would make a positive difference, I do not feel sorry or sad.
They are alive, contributing, cheerful, and creative. And that is no different than the rest of their community.
You may consider a modest donation — however much you can afford, when it comes from the heart, it’s the kind of gesture that makes us warm with appreciation.