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In Roxbury, a different sort of BLM mural declares: ‘Respect Life’

Part of the new "Rules of Engagement" street mural on Bartlett Station Drive.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The artist behind the recently demolished “Roxbury Love” mural is back with another large-scale work, this one supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sprawled on Bartlett Station Drive in Roxbury, the “Rules of Engagement” street mural reads “Love Black,” “Respect Life,” and “Compassion Matters” in bold yellow lettering and swirls of red script. Nowhere are the words “Black Lives Matter,” but the message is embedded in the project.

Artist Ricardo “Deme5” Gomez said he chose the messaging carefully with the help of his partner, Lauren Talbot.

“Each of these words represent both an emotion and an action,” he told the Globe in an e-mail. “They are powerful reminders of how we should interact with each other, but to take it further and to honor the ongoing fight of African-Americans in this country.”


David Price, executive director of the Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, commissioned Gomez in July to create a work to explicitly state that Black Lives Matter. But that same month, other Roxbury-based artists painted a 500-foot BLM street mural in Nubian Square — akin to others popping up nationwide, including one near the White House.

“This set us back, but neither of us wanted to forgo the idea of doing a BLM tribute,” Gomez said.

So they settled on the current design instead.

A view of the new street mural on Bartlett Station Drive.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Gomez largely worked on “Rules of Engagement” alone for three weeks through the hottest days of the summer. For a few days, his daughter, sister, and mother came to help. A fellow artist, filmmaker, and friend named Mushen Kieta also assisted, creating a short film documenting the process (find it at

Like the “Roxbury Love” mural, Gomez’s newest work is temporary. It will be paved over at an undetermined date to make way for a community gathering place called Oasis @ Bartlett. The spot will be used for “festivals, exhibitions, performances, and interactive participation, with a focus on supporting local artists, local audiences, and locally-based vendors,” according to its website.


But Gomez hopes the peace, positivity, and love his mural calls for is permanent.

“I hope people are reminded of how we should treat one another,” he said. “‘Rules of Engagement’ is a term used to describe military force, but what if it was changed to a blueprint on how to treat people compassionately, respectfully, and with love?”

Diti Kohli can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_

Diti Kohli can be reached at her @ditikohli_.