Title: By All Means Necessary
Site: 1800 E. 71st Street, Chicago. No longer extant.
Artists: Olivia Gude and Dorian Sylvain
Assistants: Turbado Marabou
Community Participants: Youth Artists- Harrison Williams, Fritz Deriviere, Donte Jackson, Stacy Mason, Eric Powell, Keyan Billinton, Alvin Ross, Montsho Shelby, Tenesha Sawyer, Rahsaan Foster Jahi, Gregory Johnson, Deshia Robinson, Torrance Baker, and Guest Artist Kim Rebar
Sponsors: Chicago Public Art Group, The Neighborhood Institute, and Gallery 37
Scale: 2000 square feet
Materials: Acrylic on brick
Information: An interesting feature of this mural is its bold pure black and white color scheme. The artists on the project felt that this would give a fresh, contemporary look and would be a good aesthetic experiment in a neighborhood that boasts many beautiful color murals. The title of the mural is a tribute to and reflection on Malcolm X’s famous saying, “by any means necessary.” During discussions in which the theme of the mural was developed, students often commented on the complexity of the choices and issues facing them and their communities. Out of this came the decision to design a very complex mural that presented many problems and many possible solutions. This was done in recognition of the contradictions and difficulties faced by those who attempt to make thoughtful choices in complex times.
Elegba, the orisha of the crossroads, in his traditional West African representation and as a folkloric character of the American South, presides over the beginning of the mural. Two students stand at his crossroads uncertain of their goals and direction. Also in this area, one sees a large image of Yemaya, the orisha of passage and crossings, associated with the sea. Within her tangled braids are chains and images of slave ships and creatures of the ocean.
In another scene, two young men face each other in anger and violence. At the peak of their confrontation, a suit-and-tie-attired skeleton distributes weapons of self-destruction to the community. The blindfolded young men, who were set to execute each other, instead remove their blindfolds and see that they are brothers in spirit and in flesh. They then toss away their guns and reach out to each other in a gesture of friendship.
Though thematically complex, the mural has been widely accepted and praised by the community as an accurate portrait of the complex issues of the time. Passersby stroll along the 115-foot long mural carefully studying the myriad of details.