City Beat

Artist wages a ‘beautiful fight’ on Mack Road

Demetris Washington recently finished this mural on Mack Road in south Sacramento.
Demetris Washington recently finished this mural on Mack Road in south Sacramento. rlillis@sacbee.com

The fight to revive a neighborhood doesn’t always involve new arenas or high-rise condos. Sometimes, the fight has to be fought wall by wall.

That’s how they’re doing it down on Mack Road, a commercial artery of south Sacramento plagued for years by crime and a bad reputation.

Demetris Washington is there, trying to give people something to be proud of. Last month, Washington went to the side of a 7-Eleven in a shopping center on Mack Road with his paint. The local business association and its director, Jenna Abbott, had arranged to give Washington a crack at turning the wall into his canvas.

At 24 years old, Washington is one of the city’s best-known muralists. He goes by the name BAMR, which stands for “Becoming A Man Righteously.” He did that 80-foot-tall mural on the side of 1414 K St. downtown that promotes healthy living. He also painted a couple of pieces on J Street and Del Paso Boulevard.

No one would have thought any less of Washington had he turned down the 7-Eleven wall. One of his customers told him he was devaluing his other work by donating a mural in such an obscure part of town. But Washington lives in south Sac and wants his art to have meaning.

“This could really affect a few lives out here,” Washington said.

His mural shows a hand bursting from a chaotic cluster of colors and lines. The hand is holding a string attached to a kite, under the words, “Hold On To Your Dreams.” It stretches for more than 30 feet and is hidden away in the kind of place where bad things tend to happen.

“I don’t think anybody could stand in front of this and sell drugs,” Washington said.

Washington would like to paint another mural on Mack Road this spring, on the side of the S.F. Market a few blocks away. He wants to be part of the new things happening on Mack Road. Hundreds attended block parties and cleanup events last year. The summer of 2014 was the first summer in 15 years no one was murdered on the street.

Washington interacted with his neighbors as he painted. One guy told him the mass of colors represented his own struggles in life, Washington said. Other people critiqued the work and asked for changes.

“I wish more people were out here to see it,” Washington said.

It’s meant something to Adonis Morgan. He talked to Washington during the process and was out there again on Friday, celebrating his 51st birthday outside the 7-Eleven with a friend.

“That guy must have a good heart,” Morgan said, nodding his head in Washington’s direction.

He then turned to Washington. “What’s your dream?” he asked.

“To keep doing this,” Washington replied. “It’s a fight. But it’s a beautiful fight.”

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.

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