Black Lives Matter Plaza Transformation

We have transformed the mural into a monument

Mayor Muriel Bowser

Black Lives Matter Plaza has just reopened, after a four-month process that changed it from a large painted street mural into a permanent installation.

View down toward the White House on the new Black Lives Matter Plaza. ©Angela N.

The original Black Lives Matter Plaza, created in June 2020, opened the entire two-block stretch to pedestrians. This permanent reconstruction is multi-use, with the middle lane for pedestrians and the side lanes for vehicles.

The reconstruction process

To install the permanent lettering, the street was completely torn up, and then the letters were carefully measured out and concrete poured around the letter shapes.

The letter “A”. ©Victoria Pickering

The letters were created from blocks of yellow thermoplastic paint on top of bonded concrete.

©Victoria Pickering
©Victoria Pickering
This machine ran over the letter blocks to permanently affix them. ©Victoria Pickering

Cobblestone pavers were installed over the rest of the Plaza:

©Victoria Pickering
©Victoria Pickering

The project cost $4.8 million, and another $3 million will be spent on enhancing the street as a public space, including benches, trees, lighting, and commemorative works.

The original mural

The original mural was created in June 2020 by Mayor Bowser’s administration after the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests, including tear-gassing protestors in Lafayette Park, and federal forces without visible ID’s patrolling city streets. Bowser said, “we sent a strong message that Black Lives Matter, and that power has always been and always will be with well-meaning people.” The mural covered two prominent blocks of 16th Street just north of Lafayette Square, visible from the White House.

The mural was a complete surprise, created overnight by the Department of Public Works and MuralsDC, and the Plaza immediately became a spot for gathering. From June 2020 when it was created, until July 2021 when in closed for reconstruction, the Plaza was constantly filled with major social justice activities or individuals and families enjoying the access to such a meaningful public space.

The painting of the original mural on the morning of June 5th 2020, @Angela N.

Here are just a few of the times that the Plaza has been used for social justice and other public activities:

Protests and rallies

In the early days of the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, crowds frequently took a knee on the street:

6/7/20, ©Angela N.

At a few of the protests, like this one on 6/7/20. the Plaza was completely covered with people:

©Angela N.

The “Good Trouble” rally for voting rights, 7/17/21, inspired by John Lewis.

©Miki Jourdan

Vigils and memorials

Vigil after John Lewis’s death, 7/18/20:

©Victoria Pickering

Interfaith service to honor COVID deaths, 10/19/20:

©Victoria Pickering


Juneteenth celebration, 7/19/21:

©Miki Jourdan

Creating art for racial justice

Filming “The Freedom Side” by OnRaé LaTeal, 8/16/20:

©Miki Jourdan

Sunset & Chill filming a video in support of Black Lives Matter:

@Rob Klug

Artists for Racial Justice filming on 8/23/20:

©Miki Jourdan

We Act Radio filming a tribute to Malcolm X, 5/14/21:

©Victoria Pickering

Shanna Lim filming a performance for racial equality, 8/23/20:

Shanna Lim @Rob Klug


The Plaza become a common place for journalists to use for broadcasts, especially foreign journalists who did not have press access to the White House grounds, but could position themselves on the Plaza with the White House in the background.

On election night, 11/3/20:

©Victoria Pickering

Moments after the election was called for Joe Biden on 11/7/20:

©Victoria Pickering


The Plaza become the spot where everyone knew to come on important dates, such as the night of the 2020 election:

©Miki Jourdan

Crowds filled the Plaza shortly after the Biden victory was declared on 11/7/20:

©Angela N.

We hope that however the street has been transformed, it will retain the spirit of the original, and memorialize the struggles and the power of striving for racial equality.

The original Plaza shortly before it was closed for reconstruction, 6/19/21, ©Miki Jourdan

Related posts:

George Floyd protests – part 1

George Floyd protests – part 2

Election 2020

OnRaé LaTeal’s Freedom Songs


Getting in Good Trouble to Protect Voting Rights

Dance as Protest, on Black Lives Matter Plaza

The Evolution of Black Lives Matter Plaza

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *