CHAMPAIGN — The city council decided Tuesday not to pursue a Black Lives Matter street mural in front of the City Building.
Members instead suggested an honorary street designation and started discussing other alternatives, such as supporting a Black heritage mural project and providing more funding to programs serving the Black community, before council woman Clarissa Fourman effectively shut it down.
“I don’t think to try to do something to make us feel better because (the street mural) didn’t pass is appropriate, and it’s not playing well,” Fourman said. “This is not what the discussion was meant for.”
Four council members voted to move forward with the street mural — Alicia Beck, Matt Gladney, Clarissa Fourman and Mayor Deb Feinen — while five voted against it — Will Kyles, Greg Stock, Vanna Pianfetti, Tom Bruno and Angie Brix.
“I’m really disappointed,” Beck said. “I’m just shocked.”
Everyone but Fourman voted to move forward with the honorary street sign, which would require a separate vote.
Fourman said if someone wanted to set a study session for another option, she’d welcome that, “but I’m not writing back home to my ancestors about an honorary street sign.”
Kyles said he’s received “mixed feedback” on the mural from the Black community.
“Some of us believe that it’s a great statement,” he said. “But the overwhelming majority of us really want to see not just meaningful dialogue, but meaningful work.”
Kyles said he’d rather see more resources put toward the city’s minority-contracting or gun-violence programs.
Bruno said that he certainly appreciated when Washington, D.C., made its Black Lives Matter street mural last year, but said that Champaign doing so several months later might not be as impactful.
“Like a clever tweet, once it’s been repeated 100 times, it loses some of its value,” he said.
Stock said he’d like to see something more lasting than a street mural.
“I agree with Council member Beck that perhaps as a council, we do need to make a statement. I just don’t know that I want to make a $5,000 statement, if that makes sense. And it’s not because of the money. I just think about what else that $5,000 could do,” he said.
Several council members expressed support for the Black heritage murals project being led by Visit Champaign County.
But Beck said, “I don’t think it’s an either/or situation.”
And Fourman said, “Why can’t we do all of it? Why can’t we do the resolution? Why can’t we put the money into Black businesses?”
“I don’t want the discussion to be: what’s the bare minimum that we can do so that we can make people believe that we care about Black Lives Matters,” she said.