09.16.2020

Black Artist Getting Racist Backlash For Painting a Black Lives Matter Mural

Jae Sterling stands in front of the Black Lives Matter mural he is currently painting with a team of mostly racialized artists.   |   Jae Sterling stands in front of the Black Lives Matter mural he is currently painting with a team of mostly racialized artists. | Photo by Priya Ramesh

Jae Sterling is in charge of painting a privately funded mural, going up in the city’s Chinatown, that celebrates Black lives at a time when racial reckonings are taking place all over the world. The piece, “The Guide and Protector,” includes two Black characters—a woman warrior riding a longhorn bull and a Black male cowboy guiding the two. 

The symbolism in the piece is vast, but the cowboy in particular nods at the role Black cowboys played in shaping the city’s culture, which is known for its country western aesthetic. “Black homesteaders settled in the Canadian prairies in the 1800s, a fact that has been brushed over in our history,” the mural’s proposal said, referencing John Ware, a Black cowboy who was born into slavery in the U.S. but later migrated to southern Alberta in 1882. He’s credited for being one of the first ranchers in the province.

“Calgary has this thing where everyone is supposed to be a cowgirl or cowboy, so why not Black people too?” said Sterling. “It’s my way of embracing the culture here. This is what Calgary is and you grow to love it...it was a no brainer for me.”

Sterling said he has had to ignore racial slurs, inflammatory comments online, and critical people approaching the site to ask the security guard whether the team of artists has adequate permits. 

For the full story, visit Vice.com.