How Sonia Booker Used Art and Community to Empower

Article by Erikka Searles Mitchell

Photography by L Devlin Photography

Originally published in SOFU Lifestyle

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, Sonia Booker, owner of the Studio House Atlanta which was converted amidst the pandemic to a film and production studio, found herself feeling helpless and lacking hope. As the mother of a Black son, she was at a loss for ideas on what she could do to change the state of this world. Then, SFL Publisher Michelle Taylor Willis texted her. “Turn on the news,” she said. “Isn’t that your building?” It was Booker’s space. Protestors of the injustice had reached her gallery and busted out the windows.

Booker kept being questioned about the damage: “Aren’t you angry?” the reporters asked again and again. On the contrary, Booker understood the protestors’ frustration.

“Enough was enough! I don’t condone violence, but I’m the mother of an 11-year-old son. You can’t hide things from kids. He had questions about racism. I had to use what I had,” said Booker, adding that she wanted to DO something. Then it came to her—replace the boarded-up windows with murals!

Before the pandemic hit, Booker’s space was formerly BioBiio, a prominent beauty incubator and she had plans to hold a big expo there. Now that wasn’t going to happen and she had to deal with 12 busted windows. People started to contact her about painting the boarded windows. Maisie Thompson (@dustandpaper) reached out and said that this could be an artists’ contribution to the movement. She was no stranger to using art as activism and called in like-minded friends to come “paint the women!”

“That’s it!” thought Booker. She wanted to maintain the connection between the many young Black men and boys and Black women and girls in our community. “Women are so heavily impacted, whether losing their own lives, like Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland, or those of their sons and daughters.” She thought about mothers, from Mamie Till to Lucy McBath. They ended up engaging a community of 10 women artists. “There was such a camaraderie,” said Booker. It was healing; just what she needed.

The #QueensMural quickly became a hit, serving as a spot to meet up with friends to have a socially distanced gathering and a pandemic destination to photograph for Instagram.

“It was the biggest tourist attraction in the city for a while!”

They added three new queens: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (her first mural!), Changemaker Leader Stacey Abrams, and new Vice President Kamala D. Harris!

“Mayor Bottoms was selected for the way that she nurtures our city, Harris became a symbol of the hope that triumphed over so much pain, and Abrams is a Shero all on her own,” Booker said, noting that the murals placed these women right in your face and at a level of recognition that each one deserves. “You will see us!” she laughs.

This is not the last we will see of these murals. They are currently covered with plexiglass, just in case, but soon they will travel to be a part of an art show in New Jersey and then to Art Basel in Miami. This work will be preserved.

“It was an honor to present this art as a form of protest,” says Booker. “It was a pleasure to bring a voice to something that was being silenced.”

Visit QueensMural.com which will remain after the boards come down. Follow the photo opps at #queensmural.


@dustandpaper (Maisie Thompshon)

@iamsawart (Sharanda Wilburn)

@uhdeanuh  (Adeana Berry)

@mrsfrankiebrown (Frankie Brown)

@_swayart (SWAY)

@akilsart.jpg (AKILA)

@psa_rt  (Siana Smith)


@watercolor_princess (Dymond Phillips)

@loudpiant (Elaina)

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