Crown Heights comes together at annual Sean Price mural memorial
It's been four years since the Brooklyn rapper's death.
Controversy surrounding a Crown Heights mural faded to the background on Thursday as friends, family members and fans of the late rapper Sean Price came together to observe the four-year anniversary of his passing.
Price — one-half of the Brooklyn hip-hop duo Heltah Skeltah — died in his sleep on Aug. 8, 2015, at the age of 43. The mural went up that weekend at the corner of Bergen Street and Kingston Avenue. The piece includes a portrait of the late Brownsville resident, the Brooklyn Bridge and some of Price’s lyrics: “Use your head for more than a hat rack.”
Like the storied Biggie Smalls mural mural in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the tribute has drawn crowds from all over the world. Last week was no different: Close to 50 people came out Thursday from as near as the block and as far as South America to remember the family man whose music, many said, got them through hard times.
“The turnout was amazing, as it is every year,” Price’s widow, Bernadette, reflected Friday morning. “It was an honor to be there to greet everyone and to be able to hear some of these stories. All of them still remember the time they had with him.”
“I’m just thankful for everyone who came together, who stuck together and remembered him for the person he was,” Bernadette said.
The mural has banded much of the Crown Heights community — and the Price fandom — together in recent weeks.
When workers were spotted painting over artwork next to Price’s earlier this summer, word quickly spread that the beloved mural might be wiped away. The neighbors mobilized; Price’s friends and family members stationed themselves on the block to keep watch and local lawmakers began to investigate.
Meat, a soon-to-open kosher restaurant across the street that had already made a bad first impression on locals by allegedly skirting trash regulations and turning curious residents away, found itself in the limelight until, at the end of a community meeting, the focus shifted to the owner of the building the mural is painted on.
One month after the rumors began, the Price memorial appears to be safe — though an online petition is still garnering signatures. By Monday morning, the push had more than 20,000 names attached to it.
That same spirit of support was in the air on Thursday, but there were no signs of drama. Instead, Price’s music echoed through a portable speaker, children danced to the beat of live drumming and loved ones posed for pictures with the mural.
Those in attendance also included 5Pointz co-founders Marie Cecile Flageul and Jonathan Cohen. Flageul, a resident of the block, helped facilitate the mural and Cohen, the artist known as MeresOne, brought it to life.
The pair said the evening’s turnout touched on what truly makes Brooklyn, Brooklyn.
“This yearly vigil and tribute was such a beautiful showcase of what Brooklyn is about,” they said in a joint statement Friday morning. “So much love, music and emotions dedicated to Sean Price’s memory.”
A pair of Crown Heights residents who have shown support to Meat also stopped by the vigil to pay their respects. Yaacov Behrman, founder of the Jewish Future Alliance, lit a candle in Price’s memory.
Assemblymember Diana Richardson came to the corner equipped with a lawn chair and a group of summer interns at her side. Planning to stay a while, the lawmaker said she was excited to show the high school students firsthand what it looks like to come together as a community, fight for what is right and honor one of Brooklyn’s own.
“This is a celebration of life,” she told them.
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