One week after the tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of nine people — including Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna — muralist Kyle Holbrook spent his Super Bowl weekend paying tribute to the former NBA star, fatherhood, and black American culture.
“It’s the first day of Black History [Month]; Kobe is a legend and a part of black history,” Holbrook says.
A Pittsburg native, Holbrook has been transforming the walls of communities into murals depicting local and national histories for years. In 2002, Holbrook founded the nonprofit Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project (MLK Mural). He and his team have since completed more than 500 projects around the world, including undertakings for Major League Baseball’s All-Star celebrations in Pittsburgh, the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway Community Mural Project, and the Dorsey Park murals honoring Miami’s 1920 Negro League Baseball team.
Holbrook believed a mural paying tribute to Bryant and his daughter belonged just across the street from Dorsey Park, on the corner of NW First Avenue and 17th Street in Overtown. “We wanted to put him here in Historic Overtown,” he says. For the artist, the mural is more than just homage to the basketball legend: It also highlights his life off the court, as a father.
“Showcasing fatherhood, fathers, and black fathers, I think is an important image to show to the community,” he says.
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Holbrook, a father himself, works to empower youth through art education. “It's not about me doing the art: MLK Mural is all about doing art with the community,” he says. Holbrook and MLK Mural have made an impact throughout Miami: Dozens of the organization's works can be seen in Liberty City, Overtown, Wynwood, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, and other areas around the Magic City.
As every project is done collectively with members of each community, the aim, Holbrook says, is teamwork, community involvement, and imparting self-respect as well as consideration for others.
“The whole reason for doing this memorial is not only to memorialize Kobe but to have people be able to be a part of it,” Holbrook tells New Times. “People need to heal, and a lot of times when you’re able to be a part of something and your voice is heard, then you’re able to heal.”
The community is invited to paint messages on the mural to all who lost their lives in the crash. “People have come and written messages — kids, people of all ages [and] races,” Hollbrook says. “Whether you’re into sports or not, Kobe transcends sports.”