Atlanta resident Cara Turano Snow was tired of painting over graffiti on the retaining wall of her home at Irwin and Hillard Street in the Old Fourth Ward. She had seen the mural welcoming people to the Old Fourth Ward on the retaining wall at North Avenue and Glen Iris, on the north side of the neighborhood. Could she bring that kind of welcome to the south side of the neighborhood?

Snow reached out to the office of her Atlanta City Councilman, Kwanza Hall, learned about the process, and secured his support to sponsor legislation for the mural. She brought on Will Mitchell, owner of Squared Away Signs, as the muralist.

Snow knew that she wanted to incorporate familiar and local elements into the mural to help inspire a conversation. Dogwood blossoms were a must since the dogwood has long been the symbol of the Old Fourth Ward. After conversations with her neighbor, Eric Borders, the grandson of the late Reverend William Holmes Borders, Sr., former pastor of Wheat Street Baptist Church, Snow asked Mitchell to incorporate the title of Rev. Borders’ iconic 1947 sermon/poem “I Am – Somebody” into the work. (You can hear Borders perform the poem at this link.) Mitchell learned from a neighbor that two hawks call the area home, and they made it into the mural as well.

Snow has been delighted by the impact of something that started as a local beautification project by one private citizen. For example, during the installation process numerous local artists showed up to pick up a paintbrush and contribute their skills to the finished product. Several grew up in the neighborhood, hearing stories of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Borders, Sr. as children. Snow says their sense of neighborhood pride was palpable. As the piece progressed, people would stop and get out of their cars to share what the famous quote “I am somebody” meant to them. Throughout the process, local residents and small business owners from the Sweet Auburn corridor stopped by to share their stories with the artists.

The mural was official dedicated during a ceremony on July 23.

Photo courtesy Kwanza Hall.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.