Painting of Justice for Josiah mural begins


David Josiah Lawson was a Humboldt State student when he was murdered at an off-campus party seven years ago. He was 19 at the time. No one has been charged in his murder.

On Juneteenth, community leaders began painting a mural in his honor at the D Street Neighborhood Center, facing Cal Poly Humboldt.

Benjamin Funke, who played a major part in coordinating the mural, spoke to Redwood News about it’s conception.

“We chose the D street community center because it is a community healing project and the community center is a place where people can congregate. So this location is absolutely perfect for it,” Funke said. “It was actually a really good wall, size is nice, it’s got great exposure, visibility from the school, from the road is really great.”

A lot of thought went into designing the mural and its details.

“We had basically facilitated a lot of the imagery through discussions with the family. Charmain Lawson requested that that image be used. And then we started talking about the reasons why Josiah chose to come to Humboldt County for school. And it was the redwood trees and the ocean,” Funke said. “We wanted to have a location that was easily identifiable for everybody. So when you look at the mural, you can tell that it’s College Cove and it’s something that everyone here kind of has a relationship with.”

There are several details within the mural that represent who Lawson was as a person.

“The text at the bottom is actually a facsimile of Josiah’s own handwriting, which I think adds an emotional charge,” Funke said. “There are also some other Easter eggs in there that are things like the family requested they wanted to be put in there. Josiah liked to skateboard and so there’s a skateboarder in there which will be rendered in the clouds.”

It’s not just a mural in his honor, but also a living plant wall.

“The bottom half of it, where the mural kind of ends right beneath it that is going to be a living wall, so there’ll be plants growing in the bottom eight feet of that mural and we’re going to be choosing native plants and they’re going to be flowering and fruit bearing plants,” Funke said. “That was metaphorically tied into something that’s living that needs to be cared for, but it also bears fruit and flowers. So I think metaphorically it ties quite well with why we’re here.”

All members of the community are encouraged to help with the mural.

“We have professional muralists here that will help facilitate. The members of the community can come and help if they so choose. So if they want to come and put a layer of paint on, they can grab a brush, get a cup,” Funke said. “It’s really about a community generated mural as a gift from the city to the community to help heal.”