Lincolnton’s “United We Stand” street mural is about community, pride, support, and hope in an uncertain time. In less than two weeks, Demarius Pearson gained approval from City Council, raised funds for supplies, found support from 10 artists, and hopeful people showed up to help paint.
When his original sketch met opposition, like many artists across the centuries, he made a compromise, changed the original idea, and made history: Lincolnton’s first street mural. Painted on Poplar Street by community members, it represents the colors of persons in our community that are often overlooked and pushed to the outside.
When I spoke with Pearson on Sunday afternoon, he told me that the word “WE” is a representation of all colors of people everywhere, and that we must look to the outside and make sure that we include people who are pushed to the outside.
The mural was originally intended to include the colors of different flags of Hispanic countries, the LGBTQ community, and varying shades of brown. Many people around town voiced concern, with the noisiest critics claiming, “It doesn’t include the American flag.”
Pearson said, “It was never about the flags. That was the quickest way that I could sketch my idea. This mural is REALLY about people who just want to be included in the community [the WE], who feel like they’re pushed to the fringe, and who are tired of looking from the outside-in.”
So why did people volunteer in the 90-degree heat to paint a street? Simple! They each told me in one way or another, they wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves. They wanted to be part of history, and they wanted to bring beauty to the community that WE call home in an expression of art the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Lincolnton.
Pearson said that he recruited several family members, who brought tents for shade, water, snacks, and paint. He started a GoFundMe page a week ago, to raise funds for supplies. His volunteer sign-up website maxed-out, and he welcomed walk-in volunteers. Pearson never expected such overwhelming support from local artists, nor could he believe that the mural would be nearly finished in less than 48 hours.
Large murals require dedication and bold action by artists willing to put their ideas on public display for critics, keyboard cowboys, and vandals. It is people like me, and so many others in our small town, who appreciate the work, acknowledge the efforts, and support the new expressions of community.