By Nadira Jamerson
Washington D.C.’s 14th Street has long been known as a hub of creativity and community — it’s home to the legendary bookstore and cafe Busboys and Poets and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. And now the neighborhood’s residents and visitors will have a visual reminder of the groundbreaking accomplishments of one of DC’s own: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
That’s because a mural in honor of Judge Jackson’s historic confirmation to the Supreme Court has just been completed at the intersection of 14th and S Streets NW in Washington, D.C. The final piece features Judge Jackson illuminated in swirls of yellow, blue, and purple, as she sits above Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman appointed to the federal judiciary.
“Black women are often disregarded or ignored,” says muralist Nia Keturah Calhoun, the creator of the public art. “The opportunity to show reverence to two Black women in Chocolate City on a mural is amazing. We need more Black women on walls in D.C., and in the world, period.”
Unlike most murals which can take months to plan and execute, Calhoun only had a few weeks to design and paint this mural in celebration of Judge Jackson.
Immediately following Judge Jackson’s confirmation, she received the call to start designing from Sista SCOTUS, an organization founded by four Black women in the District: Kim Tignor, Brandi Colander, Sabriya I. Williams, and April Reign.
The organization’s main goal — to create greater equality in America by ensuring a Black woman justice on the US Supreme Court — was met on April 7, the day of Judge Jackson’s confirmation vote. In a statement released after the confirmation, Sista SCOTUS said that “For Black Americans, specifically Black Women, this represents a major breakthrough in becoming more fairly represented in the policies and laws that shape our country.”
And now it’s a breakthrough that will be remembered and celebrated publicly through Calhoun’s art.
With the help of No Kings Collective, a D.C.-based design collective that creates inspiring murals across the country, Calhoun designed the mural in just one week. She was able to have the finished mural up on the wall only one week after that.
“People were so excited that I think there was really great momentum and energy. People were motivated to get it done really quickly,” Calhoun explains.
Calhoun has been designing professionally for the past eight years, but she only began mural work last year. Creating Judge Jackson’s mural was Calhoun’s first solo mural, and she was grateful for the opportunity to highlight such a pivotal moment in history as her debut.
“It celebrated Judge Jackson’s first, and I got to celebrate my first, so that was a really exciting moment for me,” she says.