Roger Brown, Pastor of Greater White Stone Baptist Church and President of the Board of The Stone Community Development Corporation (CDC), tells us the story of the new WiFi park in the church’s neighborhood. Over the years, the church has purchased property to develop for its community through the CDC. Part of that property included a dilapidated building and some vacant land across the street from the church.
The building was eligible for a mural as part of the Blight Out program of the local UrbanArt Commission to activate and transform blighted areas through public art. Artist Jamond Bullock, also known as Alive Paint, submitted his “Re-birth of a Warrior” design for the mural. He tells us how important it is to him that his designs are relevant and connected to the neighborhoods where the murals are going to be located.
ServiceMaster, a for-profit company founded and headquartered in Memphis, chose Bullock’s design for the building across from Pastor Brown’s church in South Memphis. The company also promised to provide volunteers to help the artist with the mural’s installation on a day of service it planned as part of its wish to be a good corporate neighbor and care for the city where it is based and where its employees live and work.
Bullock says he was a little anxious about managing the 150 ServiceMaster volunteers that would show up to help him paint. He started by sketching the design on the building with the colors labeled and planned to use the employees to help do the base colors and fill-ins.
Pastor Brown saw the sketch going up but didn’t know who the artist was. He shares with us the surprise and joy he felt when he discovered that the artist who had been chosen to create the mural across the street from his church was his former work-study student at LeMoyne-Owen College, someone whom he had first taught to promote his art. Jamond echoes how good it feels to reconnect with someone who had recognized and encouraged his talent so many years ago and find that the bond of their friendship remains.
On the day of service, 450 ServiceMaster employees volunteered in ten separate beautification projects in and near the Downtown area where the company would be relocating later in the year. The well-organized volunteer effort included working with six different artists to install three different murals and several painted crosswalks as well as debris removal in and around the areas of the work. Jamond says the employees at his site were excited to be there and full of positive energy and love. Some of them worked to install the park across the street from the mural.
In early planning for the development of the park, Pastor Brown addressed a problem he had become aware of in the neighborhood. He had often noticed people sitting on the church’s steps in order to use its WiFi. So when the church was in the process of upgrading its systems, he installed boosters to reach the park.
Now people can sit in the park, access the internet, enjoy a mural that beautifully expresses the story of their neighborhood, and feel both a sense of pride about their community and a sense of peace. The people that worked together to make that possible experienced great joy. Great things happen when people connect to make a vision a reality, to transform what they see around them.