It’s March, and in Austin when we hear “March Madness” we think of SXSW more than basketball! A poster cropped up a couple of weeks ago and I assumed it came courtesy of a sponsor or participant in the massive music and media festival now in full swing. The image has grown on me seeing it day after day. The graphics are bold and direct, just an engaging face and a simple message. The expression is so hopeful and joyful, how could anyone not wish to be free?
Tonight, I got a close up look at the street art and noticed the familiar signature, “truth” in gothic script. Though there may be some connection with South By, the author is one of our local and prolific east side artists, Truth, also known as, Mike Johnston. Johnston’s Facebook post notes the poster is in honor of Nina Simone, with her quote, “Every man should be free.”
In the past, I’ve written about the cultural and spiritual importance of street art. When an artist marks a place with a distinctive and creative image, we notice. The whole community, the general public, shares in a transformational experience. We see a message or hear a voice, from an otherwise leftover or neglected place. Whether or not this poster is aimed at the SXXW crowd, there’s a timely message invoked by the memory of Nina Simone, a woman whose musical legacy is equaled by her legacy of civil rights advocacy.
Intersection of Airport Blvd and MLK, Austin, Texas