As much as the President and his acolytes would like you to think otherwise, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. States such as Florida, Georgia and Arizona are currently experiencing a surge of cases, and wearing masks, which is thought to help slow the spread, has become a source of debate because some Americans believe it’s their God-given right to die—and potentially infect and kill others in the process. Despite this, a group of artists based in Atlanta is attempting to do their part to encourage more people to wear masks.
According to CNN, Sherri Daye Scott, Fabian Williams, and Dwayne “Dubelyoo” Wright have teamed up to launch a grassroots campaign that uses art to encourage the wearing of face masks. Scott created the campaign after noticing people simply weren’t wearing masks when she would go to places like the grocery store. After a friend lost three relatives to COVID-19 and a neighbor contracted it, she decided to use her stimulus check to take action. Scott, a writer and filmmaker, enlisted the help of mural artists Williams and Wright as well as the marketing firm Chemistry Agency. Together, they created the Big Facts, Small Acts campaign, aimed at spreading information about the virus to Black and Latinx communities.
The effort started with various yard signs being placed at prominent intersections throughout Atlanta that featured cartoon images of people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X encouraging people to wear masks, social distance and stay at home if they can. They researched zip codes with the highest rates of COVID-19 and placed the signs there.
“We very much wanted to target people who are hourly workers, essential workers—people who we knew had to be out and about—the idea of having a mural, a larger than life reminder, in commonly traffic[ked] places just made sense,” Scott told CNN. The group printed out vinyl maks and placed them over murals Williams and Wright had painted. Scott and Williams chose vinyl over paint to emphasize the idea that this is only temporary.
“The idea is, this is not permanent. If we do the work now, if we mask up, there will come a time when we can remove these masks,” Scott said.
One of the murals, a portrait of Bob Marley, features a mask with the word “Survive,” on it. “On the Bob Marley mural, I wrote ‘Survive’ because I wanted to have a call to action. That really spoke to what we’re supposed to do when our lives are under duress like, ‘survive!’ you’ll get through this,” Williams told CNN. “In advertising, we’re taught to have direct messaging—‘survive,’ ‘live,’ ‘we’re going to be alright.’ It’s important for us to put the messaging in that tells people what to do,”
The group hopes that their efforts will inspire artists across the country to engage in similar awareness campaigns. They’ve already seen more people wearing masks since the campaign started and hundreds have joined the “Big Facts, Small Acts” Facebook and Instagram pages.
“We’re going to get through it. You know Black people in this country, we’ve been through a lot but we’re still here and we’re going to continue to flourish. This is just a bump in the road.” Williams said.