(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is in response to a piece by David B. De Bruyn that ran here last month commenting on graffiti in response to a letter by Marilyn Liden Bode that was printed here in March, praising the Martin Luther King Jr. quote spray painted on a ramp at the Kingston Skate Park.)
I would like to respond to David B. De Bruyn’s comments (in the March issue of Kingston Community News) concerning graffiti in the Kingston Skate Park. Contrary to Mr. De Bruyn’s opinion, that the act of graffiti implies a lack of respect and criminality towards the community, it is my opinion that this particular statement shows belonging, ownership, and civic pride in it’s restraint and thoughtfulness.
I would like to commend Marilyn Liden Bode for taking notice of the graffiti in question. Just as intent and motivation are always considered in legal matters, clearly the citizen who painted this statement intended to elevate the public dialog among other users of the space.
I am 16 years old and have been living in Kingston since the age of 4, so it could be said that this is my hometown. I love living here in this beautiful community, and actively support maintaining that beauty. Like most communities in today’s society, however, many members, including youth, do not feel like they have a voice, and thus don’t feel a sense of ownership or belonging.
The skate park was a true gift for the Kingston community, and the youth of our community appreciate it. I have enjoyed skating there myself (not well, mind you), and I know many kids who frequent the park. The park has become a safe haven for young people, where they can go have fun, and, as you have stated concern about, express themselves.
Graffiti, though a felony without permission, is a valuable form of creative, political and literary expression.
Though you may see it as a degradation and devaluation of our community, I believe we should go back to the root of the act. Graffiti first emerged in the Ancient Greek and Roman era, where it was used to announce political worries and views, and recite famous literary quotes, among other things. It was a valuable sounding board for the poor and disenfranchised citizens of such Ancient societies, as it allowed them to spread their opinions and ideas to other people.
The graffiti seen at the Kingston Skate Park reflects these roots. The quote recognized was not a racist slur, a meaningless tag, or anything of a derogatory nature; it was a powerful social statement made originally by the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The “Mad Muralist” who left this mark on our skate park is obviously a well-read and intelligent individual, and should be applauded for this thoughtful statement.
The youth of this community, like the average people of Greece and Rome, are simply frustrated by the lack of creative outlets provided by their society. The skate park is the only place in Kingston that remotely belongs to the youth, and even in consideration of that fact, we openly welcome all community members to enjoy it with us, as they have so graciously provided it.
When derogatory statements are made there, skate park frequenters actively work to remove them. The youth should be applauded for taking ownership of this space, and policing the graffiti placed there, as it reflects pride in our community. The graffiti scrawled onto its surfaces is not created to degrade our community; it is our contribution to it.
The Mad Muralist should be commended for the restrained self-expression in a sometimes suppressed and frustrated society, not for disrespectful vandalism. The content of this graffiti should be taken into account, as the content is subjective. If they were to write or depict things that suggested disrespect for the community (without just cause) it would be an entirely different story.
To quote Dr. King, “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” Though you see the expression of the Kingston youth’s opinions, you do not note the root of it, which is the lack of creative outlets provided to us. The youth of Kingston would surely be more than willing to express themselves in more legal bounds if such outlets were provided. For now, graffiti is our foghorn.
Junior, Kingston High School