On June 3, a protester tagged the outside of Imago Dei, a nondenominational church in the Buckman neighborhood, with the phrase "Black Lives Matter." The next day, staff convened online to discuss the next steps.
"Our building gets tagged all the time and we paint over it, keep it moving," says Pastor Michelle Jones. "Then a discussion just kind of happened: 'What if we kept it? What if we changed it? What if we made it art?'"
Heidie Ambrose, a staff member and artist by trade, began the process of expanding the graffiti into a sprawling mural. Each brick is marked with the name of a Black person who has died at the hands of systemic racism, and painted bricks are reserved for those who have died in the Portland area.
The mural is seen as a part of Imago Dei's greater ethos around race and reconciliation, which has been the subject of the church's sermons since the earliest days of the protests.
"We have to admit that throughout history, the church has been complicit in allowing injustice to flourish in this country, either by its silence or by speaking in the wrong way," says Jones. "But if we're going to own it, then we've gotta own it."