(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser joined the Ali family of Ben’s Chili Bowl, local muralist Aniekan Udofia, and other distinguished guests to celebrate the dedication of the new mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street.
“Next year, Ben’s Chili Bowl will celebrate their 60th anniversary, and I could think of no better way to honor the Ali family for their steadfast commitment to Washington, DC, than through the creation of another tremendous mural,” said Mayor Bowser. “The love Ben’s Chili Bowl has shown the District since 1958 is surpassed only by the love our city has shown them right back.”
The new mural, titled “The Torch,” shows the portraits of more than a dozen African American trailblazers. Those who appear on the wall were selected via an online contest held by Ben’s Chili Bowl, in which more than 30,000 votes were cast. The Ali family selected from the top candidates and Udofia finalized the list based on his concept. The final list of portraits includes those of: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Marion Barry, Harriet Tubman, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Wale, Roberta Flack, Chuck Brown, Dick Gregory, Dave Chappelle, Taraji Henson, Russ Parr, Jim Vance, and Donnie Simpson.
“The Torch” is the second collaboration between MuralsDC, Udofia, and Ben’s Chili Bowl. In 2012, after Ben’s Chili Bowl expressed interest in working with MuralsDC, Udofia created the widely celebrated mural “Famous Faces,” which featured celebrities with close ties to the DC community. The mural went on to become one of the most photographed murals in Washington, DC. In 2017, Ben’s Chili Bowl reached out to MuralsDC about doing a second mural and expressed an interest in working with the same artist. Aniekan, who works with MuralsDC each year and is one of the top muralists in DC, and was selected to paint the new mural.
The unveiling comes in the midst of Back to Basics DC, a citywide effort to highlight the day-to-day work that keeps DC moving forward, and one week after Mayor Bowser called on District residents and property owners to help identify future MuralsDC sites. The MuralsDC program plans to create at least one mural in each ward, and emphasizes that walls that are highly visible to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, in good condition, and located on commercial property are ideal project sites. Those interested in nominating a site should tweet photos of a graffiti-ridden wall to @dcdpw using #NominateMyWall and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MuralsDC was launched in 2007 by the late Ward One Councilmember Jim Graham as a creative solution to an increase in illegal graffiti. Since then, artists from Washington, DC and beyond have painted 65 murals throughout the city, significantly reducing incidents of repeat graffiti and adding to the vibrancy of neighborhoods in every ward.