Black Women Respond to Gentrification With ‘Brown Girl Narratives’

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 04, 2020

Hull Street in Richmond, Virginia’s South Side neighborhood has seen gentrification over the years and a 20-by-60-foot-tall mural titled “Brown Girl Narratives” has gone up as a reminder of what used to be, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

The colorfully sprawling artwork, which features seven Black women embracing each other, was born from Virginia Commonwealth University student Kristal Brown’s doctoral dissertation on the role that racism plays in young Black women’s physical and mental health. For her research, Brown asked Richmond residents to share “what it was like to be a Black woman,” according to the Times-Dispatch, and muralist Austin Miles wove some of the responses into the artwork as quotes and phrases. 

“It was something that I felt like we needed to talk about, particularly in Richmond, where the city is still very much divided,” Brown told theTimes-Dispatch. “There were many times I wanted to say, ‘Me too.’ … It makes you know that it’s not just you.”

In addition to Brown’s research, the project was made possible with a $10,000 grant from Initiatives of Change, by way of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Miles, who contributed her paintbrushes in 2017 to Richmond’s first mural created by and for Black girls, said she hopes the art fosters unification and pride among the city’s Black residents.

“When communities are becoming gentrified, the people who were there originally aren’t seen,” Miles said. “Women in this mural matter. The Black people in that community matter. I hoped that that would be a motivator for togetherness.”