WHO WE ARE
Memorialize the Movement (MTM) is a grassroots organization that was created in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department and the protests that followed on May 25th, 2020. MTM was born from the need to address the lack of racial and economic justice in the city of Minneapolis. When it became clear that there was no plan for the collection and preservation of the plywood murals made by 2020 protesters and mourners, MTM’s founder, Leesa Kelly, took on the responsibility of collecting as many of these artworks as possible so that the Black and Brown stories they told would not be lost. Preserving and activating the plywood murals ensures that the story of these historic events are told by the voices of the Black community who experienced them. Our work is meant to memorialize this time and place in history and honor the original purpose of the murals, which were a means of protest. Justice is truth, and truth lives in these murals. The purpose of our work in preserving the plywood murals is to bring the Black narrative to the forefront of this ongoing fight for justice and to shed light on the issues of police brutality, police accountability, state violence, and the Black experience in this renewed racial justice movement.
MTM is by the people and for the people. Our work is guided through an anti-racism lens and prioritizes uplifting the voices of the BIPOC community. We are dedicated to uplifting and prioritizing BIPOC artists, creatives, and arts organizations in the Twin Cities. Our organization is completely BIPOC led and works closely with BIPOC activists, arts organizations, youth, and people in the museum field. Our events and exhibitions are created with the intention of healing trauma that has been experienced in the Black and Brown communities in the Twin Cities and are an opportunity to create new pieces that inspire change. We continue to tell the narrative of the Black experience in real time by creating new murals at all of our events. The new and old murals highlight the pandemic, the pain and trauma of recent killings from the police in the Twin Cities before and after George Floyd’s murder, and the continuous fight and uprisings from the people.
We aim to build a collective memory of the uprisings, protests, and mourning that occurred in the Twin Cities in 2020. Art has always been an important tool for sparking conversations around social movements. MTM aims to continue that tradition by challenging the witnesses of these murals as well as challenging museum and conservation institutions. In the museum industry, there is a distinct lack of representation and resources for Black and Brown historians and conservators. Our goal with MTM is to build a new institution where BIPOC communities are the stewards of their own stories and history is remembered as it was, not as we wanted it to be. Since our founding, we have collected and preserved over 1,000 plywood mural panels, hosted numerous community art events, and have led workshops at universities and local conferences on the topic of cultivating BIPOC representation and visibility in conservation and preservation work. By curating spaces where the murals can speak for themselves, MTM is dissolving barriers between communities and leading the urgent work of fostering belonging and inclusion in the Twin Cities.
Meet The Founder
Leesa Kelly - Founder | Executive Director
Leesa Kelly is an activist, writer, public speaker, and curator. Leesa is the Founder and Executive Director of Memorialize the Movement. Through her work with Memorialize the Movement, Leesa has spoken at over 17 conferences and universities, organized large-scale exhibitions in the Twin Cities and New York, and has led workshops on cultivating BIPOC representation and visibility in the museum and conservation industry. She believes in dismantling oppressive systems and rebuilding new systems that work for ALL people.
Leesa’s passion for social justice and activism was formed during her college years at her alma mater, Western Michigan University. After graduating, Leesa worked as a political organizer for the campaign of Hennepin County Commissioner, Irene Fernando. In the winter of 2022, she became a McWatt Fellow, where she worked to strengthen Black history research & community engagement with the Ramsey County Historical Society, Hennepin History Museum, Anoka County Historical Society, and the Dakota County Historical Society. When Leesa is not planning the next exhibition or facilitating a workshop, she can be found snuggling with her dog, traveling, and working on self care.
Photo credits: Margo Ashmore