MINNEAPOLIS — Pushed to the point of exhaustion, Leesa Kelly is walking around a public park on the south side of Minneapolis. The sound of drilling and hammering almost echoes out this young activist's voice as she works to coordinate a small army of volunteers on a recent Saturday morning.
Kelly oversees the nonprofit called Memorialize the Movement. The group is made up of volunteers who have spent the last two years helping to preserve plywood murals collected across the Twin Cities in the days and weeks following George Floyd's murder in 2020.
"Each one has a story of its own," Kelly said.
When we met Leesa Kelly last year, she was standing inside a warehouse in Minneapolis, surrounded by dozens of pieces of plywood that became pieces of art during the social unrest that enveloped this city in 2020.
After George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, the Twin Cities were boarded up. But as businesses tried to shield themselves from protests, they unknowingly provided artists across the city with blank canvases.
The plywood boards that seemed to be everywhere suddenly became a place for people to express their pain.
"You don’t understand the scale and scope of this and you don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating them," Kelly remarked while looking around at dozens of murals that were displayed in the park.
Up until recently, the plywood murals were stored in a warehouse, hidden from public view. But now, thanks to grants and donations, the nonprofit has started displaying these murals for the people to see.
"Like the literal movement of these structures and when it gets hard, you can’t just quit and you just do it, no matter what," she added.
Memorialize the Movement is eventually hoping to find a permanent home to display these plywood murals. Kelly's dream is to one day be able to take them on traveling exhibits across the country.
"We have to continue to do this so people don’t forget."