Spreading Hope Through Murals in Queens

The subjects of murals that Freedom has commissioned include the retired NBA player Kenny Anderson, President Barack Obama and Freedom himself. (Leonardo Claudio via Amsterdam News)

On a walk through his neighborhood of LeFrak City Freedom, a popular community activist, encounters many faces — both looking down from city walls and waving hello on the street.

The Amsterdam News recently took a walk through LeFrak City, a housing complex in Corona, Queens, with Freedom. Not just a community leader, Freedom is a patron of street art. He hires local artists to beautify the walls of local businesses.

[Freedom] was instrumental in the creation of the murals at the Food Bazaar and has his eye on a wall with clustered tags on 96th Street and renaming it the “Music Wall” as a tribute to musical legends such as Billie Holiday and Nat Turner.

A Nation of Islam member, Freedom believes in setting an example. He makes a distinction between illegal graffiti and commissioned murals, but he doesn’t dismiss all graffiti; he respects tags that pay homage to the deceased, especially those that honor youths lost to violence.

Another block over, we find ourselves outside the Food Bazaar. The sidewall features a mural of King Tutankhamen and a stone mask face, with messy graffiti tags spliced in between. It’s set to become the “Falling Soldiers” wall sometime this year. When it’s done, other departed “kings and queens” will join King Tut.

Freedom offered some parting wisdom on the lasting effect of murals in a community.

“This tribute is for life itself,” [Freedom] said. “This body is nothing but a spaceship. Your body is born to decay. We’re passing through, and as we pass through, we have to pass the baton. These walls are just like a baton passing.”

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