If it wasn’t already true, Half Moon Bay is becoming known for its downtown murals.
Walking north you first come to Sue Pritchard’s dazzling mosaic on the Goldworks building at 542 Main St. It brings together much of what makes the Coastside grand. Stately brown tree trunks reach to the sunny sky, a tile ocean glints offshore and a lone pumpkin grows toward the bottom of the two-story work. You might have missed the raccoon scurrying from behind the pumpkin.
Cross the street and see three murals on City Hall’s southern wall. The first two, created in 2005, were painted to commemorate the 100th year of the Rotary Club. One is a beach scene with two people looking out toward a deserted stretch of sand. The other shows wildflowers in the foreground of a mountain scene. The third mural, completed last week, reads Black Lives Matter in bold, block letters. We’ll come back to it.
Across the street, taking up appropriately two full walls of the Cunha Country Grocery, is Fabio’s painting of Jeff Clark zooming down a mountain of water at Mavericks. It provides a bit of the scale and grandeur of one of the area’s natural wonders.
Cross again and look at the south-facing wall of the Francis Building at 413 Main St. The Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee, the I.D.E.S. Society, the Spanishtown Historical Society and others commissioned Adriana Gallego and Claudio Dicochea to depict the founding of the Coastside. The area’s agricultural roots, Ocean Shore Railroad and the coast’s logging past are all represented. So, too, is the town’s Portuguese heritage. The most prominent people in the mural are Chamarita queens marching down Main Street. It’s worth noting that no one complained that Portuguese people seemed to be getting top billing when this beautiful mural was painted in 2003.
Which brings us back to the most recent of the six, the Black Lives Matter mural. The city commissioned East Bay artist Steve Anderson to paint it and he finished his work on Friday. We reported on the work, and our posts have brought dozens of comments on our website and to our Facebook page. Most seem to appreciate the sentiment, but some clearly do not. In a nutshell, the complaint is that the city shouldn’t single out Black people.
All lives matter, they say.
Of course the mural does not suggest differently. It does not read “Only Black Lives Matter.” There is no suggestion that Black lives matter more than others. It does not preclude similar honors for people of other ethnic backgrounds. It does, however, recognize a dark open secret: For hundreds of years this country — through the actions of complicit people who benefited from the status quo — considered Black lives to matter less than others. It’s a truth born in slavery that grew into Jim Crow laws and matured in forced segregation. Racism thrives to this very day in the food deserts in our cities, with bank redlining in our suburbs, amid drug laws that have incarcerated a generation of Black men everywhere. It lingers with inequities in health care, it perpetuates consistently underperforming schools, and it kills people slowly in ghettos choked with environmental injustice. Our continuing racism is obvious when a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is shot in the back seven times because he might reach for a weapon but a white teenager armed with an assault rifle is allowed to walk right past police despite having murdered someone seconds earlier.
Writing “Black Lives Matter” on the wall of one municipal building won’t change any of that. But it won’t hurt the good people of Half Moon Bay to be reminded of it every time they drive north on Main Street.
— Clay Lambert