Berkeley neighbors start work on street mural calling for ‘Reparations Now!’

Neighbors on Ellis Street in South Berkeley began work today on a street mural which will spell out the words ‘Reparations Now!’ in giant letters on the block between Ashby Avenue and Prince Street.

The plan for the Ellis Street mural. Image: Courtesy Masha Albrecht

Neighbors on Ellis Street in South Berkeley began work today on a street mural which will spell out the words ‘Reparations Now!’ in giant letters on the block between Prince Street and Ashby Avenue.

Masha Albrecht, one of the neighbors, told Berkeleyside that the date the local residents chose to start work on the mural coincides with what would have been the 77th birthday of Margy Wilkinson who lived in the middle of the block until she died suddenly on June 25.

“Margy was an important, well-loved and passionate community organizer and helped start the planning for this mural,” Albrecht said.

Wilkinson lived in South Berkeley for 40 years, was a co-founder of Friends of Adeline, served on the board of Consider the Homeless and chaired the Berkeley Labor Commission. She also served as the executive director of the Pacifica Network, owner of KPFA. She was involved with many issues in Berkeley — around workers’ rights, homelessness, curtailing police power and making sure that South Berkeley was not inextricably changed by gentrification.

Albrecht said the neighbors planning the mural thought the message, a call for reparations to the victims of slavery and their descendants, was “necessary and appropriate.”

Among the group gathered on Thursday to begin the preparation work for the street mural was local muralist, educator and activist Edythe Boone. Boone has for decades guided people in creating murals that tackle issues of racism, poverty, and violence against young people of color. One of the most recent works she oversaw, “The Invisible Becomes Visible,” is a timeline of South Berkeley from the days of the Ohlone to the present, stretching 100 feet on the south side of Ashby Avenue between Harper and Ellis streets.

This will be the third giant street mural to be put down in Berkeley since the killing of George Floyd in May and the subsequent nationwide civil uprising for racial justice. Last month, Berkeley High students painted ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Allston Way at the end of a protest march and the city had ‘Ohlone Territory’ painted on Milvia Street.

[Featured photo by Photo Erin Lê.]

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.