Credit: Tyrus Ortega Gains Photography
Like in many cities around the country, artists in Charlotte made a social justice statement last summer by emblazoning the words “Black Lives Matter” on a main city thoroughfare.
The mural enlivened the stretch of Tryon Street outside of the flagship U.S. Bank branch in Charlotte, and it inspired the bank to support additional works of art in recent months.
Last June, U.S. Bank commissioned artists who created the mural to paint colorful rocking chairs. The painters worked on the bank’s “front porch,” allowing passersby to watch them in action. The chairs have since been donated to an exhibit at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and will be auctioned for charity.
And this month, the bank sponsored an outdoor performance of the jazz masterpiece “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite.” The production, which was carefully orchestrated with city officials and followed coronavirus protocols, was filmed on Charlotte’s Black Lives Matter Plaza unannounced on a fall evening. It will premiere online Feb. 12, perfectly timed for Black History Month.
Roach is a Black drummer and composer born in North Carolina whose work often touched on civil rights themes. “We insist” recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. The album cover commemorates the Greensboro, North Carolina, lunch counter sit-ins that pushed the Woolworth retail chain to end racial segregation policies in the South.
“Our goal is to educate and share all aspects of the music, including its role in the struggle for civil rights and equality,” said Lonnie Davis, president of JazzArts Charlotte, the group behind the production. “‘We Insist!’ is a masterful work that captures the movement, with many references to today’s ongoing challenges. Our city’s Black Lives Matter mural was an obvious location for this meaningful 60th anniversary tribute.”
U.S. Bank was proud to be one of the sponsors of the performance, said Reba Dominski, chief social responsibility officer at U.S. Bank. “This piece is just as inspiring today as it was 60 years ago,” she said, “and it reflects our strong commitment as a company to promoting social justice.”