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Fort Worth Mural Honors Life Of Atatiana Jefferson

Three people on ladders work on a colorful mural, featuring Atatiana Jefferson's face, a pink flower, and a strand of DNA.
Miranda Suarez
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KERA
Artists work on a mural honoring the life of Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman killed by a white Fort Worth police officer in 2019.

A leader of Fort Worth’s racial justice protests is behind a new public art project: a mural to honor the life of Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman who was shot and killed by a white Fort Worth police officer last year.

Aaron Dean shot Jefferson through the window of her home in October. After the killing Dean resigned, and he has since been indicted for murder.

Activist Trice Jones has been a fixture in the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd. She said she was inspired to organize the mural for Jefferson when she saw the mural that went up for Vanessa Guillén, a Fort Hood soldier whose body was recently identified after her disappearance in April.

Jones raised over $1,000 for the Jefferson mural on GoFundMe. With the help of legendary Fort Worth activist Opal Lee, she found the building at the intersection of Evans Avenue and Allen Avenue where the mural now stands. She also found the artist with a callout on social media — all in an effort to make sure no one forgets what happened to Jefferson.

"It's symbolic that Fort Worth PD is gonna have to drive by here and remember what someone from their department did,” Jones said.

A crowd gathered to watch artists paint the mural on Wednesday night, in a celebration that featured booming music, food and a bouncy house for kids.

The mural itself was still in progress as of 7:30 p.m., but already Jefferson’s face stood against a light blue background, looking straight out at the street. Next to her is a DNA double helix, a nod to her love for science and her ambition to become a doctor.

Fort Worth artist Julian Johnson was in charge of painting Jefferson’s face — an emotional experience for him.

“I don’t like painting dead people. It hurts, ‘cause I feel it, I feel it a lot,” he said.

A dark-skinned man with short dreadlocks, tied back in a ponytail, uses a fine brush to paint Jefferson's face on the side of a brick building.
Credit Miranda Suarez / KERA
/
KERA
Fort Worth artist Julian Johnson works on a painting of Atatiana Jefferson's face, as part of a mural honoring her life.

Even so, he said he would be there for as long as it took to complete the painting and do Jefferson justice.

“I’m gonna finish it on the time that she deserves. She doesn’t deserve just one day and that’s it,” he said.

Fort Worth’s most recent racial justice movement has expanded beyond protests in the streets, to art projects like the mural and plans for a mental health crisis center.

It also included political opposition to the Crime Control and Prevention District, a sales tax that raised almost $80 million for city police in fiscal year 2019.

In the July 14 election, voters decided to extend the tax for another 10 years. But Jones, the activist who organized the mural project, said she was still encouraged by the amount of opposition.

"That just tells me that the next time it comes up in 10 years, oh, we'll definitely be winning that,” she said.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @mirandarsuarez.

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