Artist Fabian Williams’ new project focuses on activist Hosea Williams


Fabian Williams wants his latest mural project to spark a conversation.

The towering mural of Atlanta civil rights activist the Rev. Hosea Williams is painted on the side of a parking deck at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward.

“Why don’t we celebrate our civil rights heroes in a better way?” he asked. He wants people to think — and talk — about people who had made life better for others. Who marched for civil and human rights.

People like Hosea Williams.

Fabian Williams, who makes murals under the name “Occasional Superstar,” was among several artists and property owners who recently sued the city of Atlanta to stop regulation of murals on private property. The city later agreed not to enforce the ordinance.

In his new mural, it may not be the image of Hosea Williams that people are used to seeing. It’s filled with symbolism.

The fluorescent mural of an overall-clad Williams is funk meets soul and blues. He’s barefoot with what appears to be a golden halo surrounding his Afro.

Williams, who’s no relation to the civil rights leader, said he wanted him barefoot because he represented “the common folks. He was humble.”

The figure’s arms are outstretched. No matter the vantage point, explained the artist, it appears that Williams is pointing at you. “He wants you to continue the work,” Williams said.

Egyptian hieroglyphs run down the left side of the mural. The key to the message is on the right, under the name Hosea Williams.

Williams wants people to decipher the message on their own.

Initially, Williams, 41, wanted to paint a mural of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but was unable to get in touch with the King family.

Given the family’s well-publicized protectiveness over King’s words and image, Williams said, he decided to go another route, one that led him to Williams.

“I mainly went with Hosea Williams because I’ve been driving through this city since 2001 and I’d never seen a picture of him,” said Williams, who was commissioned by Studioplex to do the piece. “I never knew what he looked like. I really didn’t know what he did.”

Sure, he’d heard about Hosea Helps, the nonprofit formerly known as Hosea Feed the Hungry & Homeless, but that was about all.

The ordained minister, scientist and trusted associate of King’s died in 2000.

Related:

Local artists paint mural to say education is “Not a Crime”

SCLC to launch hip-hop music label to engage a new generation

Artists, landowners sue city to stop regulation of murals on private property

He selected Williams out of curiosity, but the more he researched the Attapulgus, Ga.-born activist, the more he knew he was on the right track.

“He was a World War II vet. He received the Purple Heart,” said Williams, who was born in Fayetteville, N.C. “Coming back from the war, he was attacked by Klan members who jacked him up pretty bad. His new fight was against racism and poverty. I mean, he was a tough dude.”

Before he dipped his brush in paint, however, the artist sought out Williams’ family. He wanted their blessings for the project.

He explained the concept during a meeting at Hosea Helps’ offices.

He thought about putting Hosea Williams in a suit. “His family was like, nope!” said Williams. He went back and saw that Williams was often photographed in jean overalls. The mural took about two weeks to complete. He used fluorescent aerosol and acrylic with gold foil. He’s added light to really showcase the colors. It nearly pulsates off the wall.

“When you light it up, some kind of vibe comes off,” he said. “You can feel it.”

The family appears pleased as well.

“To see this mural dedicated to my father means young people have not forgotten the men and women who gave their lives to the movement for justice and righteousness and peace and love,” said Elisabeth Omilami, Williams’ daughter and CEO of Hosea Helps, a nonprofit formed by her parents to help the poor.

Next, Williams would love to see murals of other prominent figures who have helped shape the city and, in some cases, the world. Especially on the streets that carry their names.

Perhaps, the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, Williams mused.

“We have streets named after people, but there’s no visual representation,” he said. “People should know who they are.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Why Marvel stars held a fashion shoot on the Atlanta “Avengers” set

Marvel’s latest “Avengers” movie has been filming in Atlanta. Shooting a massive blockbuster is a huge, time-consuming job but stars Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth made space for a little side hustle. The stars are modeling limited-edition T-shirts...
Review: Santa Claus and Shakespeare collide in Craig Drennen solo show
Review: Santa Claus and Shakespeare collide in Craig Drennen solo show

Artist Craig Drennen gives the schlock treatment to high art in his quirky, conceptually challenging solo show “Bandit” at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. “Bandit” essentially operates on two levels. On one hand, it is a deconstruction of one of William Shakespeare’s (reputedly working with a literary collaborator)...
Holiday Heroes: Young ‘Wish Warriors’ pay it forward after receiving Braves visit
Holiday Heroes: Young ‘Wish Warriors’ pay it forward after receiving Braves visit

When the Atlanta Braves descended on Connor Meadows’ school field day in May 2016, it was easily one of the most touching moments of his life. At 8 years old, Meadows had been diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer that primarily affects children. The Braves visited as part of a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, surprising everyone...
WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel holds infant son during tearful monologue about children's health care
WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel holds infant son during tearful monologue about children's health care

On Monday, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue while holding his 7-month-old son, Billy, after taking a week off as the baby boy recovered from heart surgery. A tearful Kimmel asked lawmakers to restore the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired two months ago. "This is literally a life-and-death program...
2017 Holiday gift guide: gifts that cost $25 or less
2017 Holiday gift guide: gifts that cost $25 or less
Holiday spending is expected to increase overall this season, but not every shopper is planning to spend more money on gifts.  Just over half of Americans (53 percent) said they plan to spend $50 or more on their most expensive gift this holiday season, according to a survey from CreditCards.com. About 12 percent of adults said they don&rsquo...
More Stories