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FERGUSON, Missouri — Boarded-up businesses line the streets here, only half a mile from where Michael Brown was shot, but one artist is hoping to beautify the area by covering the plywood with photographs of hands.
"This is a problem that is going to take everyone to fix. It is all hands on deck" said Damon Davis, a 29-year-old artist from St. Louis.
After the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed teenager, Davis felt compelled to let his neighbors know they were loved and not alone. He decided to use his art to give a boost to the community at the heart of the action.
A grand jury is expected any day to decide whether the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, should face charges. Officials are bracing for potential protests should the grand jury decline charges.
"There are a lot of nice people who live here and a lot of nice people are part of this movement, and we certainly want to show them you can also have beauty in a time of very serious circumstances," said Michael Skolnik, president of popular hip-hop and pop culture website, Global Grind, who traveled from New York to help Davis.
The photos that Davis, Skolnik and others plan to plaster on buildings lining W. Florissant Avenue show the racially diverse hands of people who have been active in focusing attention on inequalities in Ferguson. "All of these folks with their hands [photographed] have led this movement. Even the kids, the little ones, have led this movement," Skolnik said. "Damon wanted to make sure we showed diversity."
Aziza Binti, who used to live in the apartments near where Brown was shot and is helping put the photographs up, said she hoped the pictures could inspire conversation among her peers and help form a bond. The group intends to hang hundreds of Davis' photos across the block.
For Davis, achieving this goal is personal.
"The issues in St. Louis are one thing, but I’m a young black person. I am a target," he said. "If I don’t stand up and say something, no one else is going to stand up and say something."