The somber painted faces of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor stare down at passersby from a new mural at 8th Avenue and Olive Street.
The mural might be the first mural in Eugene that calls for equal justice for Black Americans, according to businesswoman Betty Snowden. In addition to Floyd’s and Taylor’s faces, the names of 14 other Black victims of police brutality are listed on the bottom. The words “We will always see you, we will always say your name” frame the 12-by-18-foot art piece, a message Snowden hopes will resonate with everyone who sees it.
“I thought it was fitting to have it in Eugene, Oregon, just to show that we need change in this city,” Snowden says. “I hope that when people look at that mural, that we can look within ourselves and say, ‘How can I help be the change that we so desperately need in the area?’”
Snowden, a longtime fundraiser and Eugene business owner, had the mural painted by an anonymous artist on the wall of a building she owns downtown. Otherwise, she says, it probably wouldn’t have gotten done.
Snowden describes the mural as a memory wall for Black people who have been murdered by police. She says she has seen people walk by, look at Floyd’s and Taylor’s faces, and start to cry.
“We need to keep this in front of the people,” Snowden says. “Every morning I try to go and look in their eyes, and I’m just letting them know that, somehow, there’s going to be justice for them.”
On Aug. 18, Snowden changed the name of an Oregon nonprofit she registered three years ago as Betty Cares to 8:46 Justice Today, which refers to the eight minutes and 46 seconds that a police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck during the May 25 incident that killed him. On that day, Snowden says, she was given a new sense of dedication and saw what she needed to do to get equal justice.
“I think that people don’t understand what we have to go through as a Black business downtown,” Snowden says. “I know people in this town probably get tired of hearing it, but they need to understand that when we say what we are going through, we are actually going through these things.”
Snowden says her business, Glamour Girls and Guys Hair Studio, 125 W. Broadway, is a constant target for racial harassment. The business was targeted on July 13, when a group of people blocked the entrance, banged on security bars with skateboards and backpacks and screamed racial slurs, including the N-word. It was not the first time something like this has happened, she says.
“When we’re told that white lives matter, is that acceptable? When we’re told to go back to Africa, is that acceptable?” Snowden says. “We may not fit according to their standards, but we fit according to our standards. And we’re not going anyplace.”
If COVID allows, Snowden would like to have a dedication in the coming weeks for Black victims of police brutality. She plans to put more murals and artwork pertaining to equal justice on other walls she owns around Eugene.
“It’s the first one in Eugene, and I hope it’s not the last one,” Snowden says. “But I don’t think you’ll have one that nice, I really don’t.”