NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The founder of Bongo Java has made a commitment to “starting a conversation.” In partnership with Arts4Impact, the goal is to allow local artists and musicians to be “agents of change.”
After the Covenant School shooting, the discussion of gun reform could be found on almost every corner of Middle Tennessee. It all came to a head at the Tennessee special session called by Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee).
However, many would leave disappointed, after claiming no real gun reform bills were passed. Nearly a week later, the community still has not forgotten what many advocated for, putting it into the form of art.
Arts4Impact was founded by Jacqueline von Edelberg who created a memorial in her hometown after the Highland Park shooting on July 4, 2022.
Bongo Java East Nashville Location
Outside of the Bongo Java shop in East Nashville, at first glance, the colors pull you in.
“I designed this really bright orange camo pattern with kind of holographic colors going through it so that you couldn’t miss it, so that it couldn’t be invisible, and you know hunters wear that color so that they’re not targets, and I thought it was really ironic that our kids don’t want to be victims of gun violence,” said Herb Williams, the artist behind the mural.
The mural stands in partnership with Margo Cloniger. The goal is to have an “Invitation to a Conversation” art installation.
Williams’ passion comes from personal experience.
“Just a couple blocks down the road in 2017, my mom was a victim to gun violence, and just after the Covenant shooting, I was finally able to be so pint up with anger that I was just like, ‘I’m done. I want to tell my story.’ And not just tell my story, but help my dad do these things,” said Maggie Williams, Herb’s daughter, as she watched her father paint.
According to the Williams family, Maggie’s mother was shot and killed outside of her house in 2017 while the kids were home inside. The shooter was reportedly a man who bought the pistol legally from a nearby sporting goods store that morning.
“If we had any one of simple red flag laws, better law enforcement communication, or more thorough background checks or waiting periods, his history of violence and domestic abuse would have prevented the sale and saved her life,” Herb explained.
Along with the mural, the entire lot outside is full of orange chairs, picnic chairs, and woven cloth memorials.
Herb and his children went downtown during the special session. He described seeing a huge crowd and armed pro-gun men. It was a moment he said he felt panicked, worried he could be separated from his children at any moment. So to help, he created a pattern and put it on a bandana or hat so that he could easily find his kids at a moment’s notice. It’s the same design featured on the mural.
“I hope they get the sense of hope because it is such a depressing topic that you can just dive right in, and I think some people need some hope right now,” Maggie said.
While Herb had hoped to speak during the session, he instead is letting his artwork do the talking.
“I just felt like words weren’t enough; if they’re not going to hear our words or strike down any kind of argument, that maybe art could be something that could better speak about all the complex views of the issue, something the legislatures would have to take time to respond to,” Herb said.
Bongo Fido Location
Through the lens of empowerment, a collection going beyond the words of what happened inside the Tennessee State Capitol is being put up.
“I hope that people can understand that by having a visual story and a visual scene that it helps them emphasize and connect with those who have been affected by gun violence, and also see how even though that’s very horrendous, I hope that it shows when we come together, (we) can bring about not only change, but beautiful moments to share collectively,” described Eve Greenberg, one of the photographers behind the photos.
Each photo tells the story of each day as advocates and parents demanded action.
“It’s never-ending, or at least it hasn’t ended yet. So, it’s important to show that,” Greenberg said.
You can see all of the exhibited work here.
Bongo Belmont Location
You can find a version of the bright orange colors at each Bongo Java location.
“Conversations with artists lead to paring trees orange,” said Bob Berstein, the founder of Bongo Java.
Near the Belmont University Campus, two trees sit identical in color, with one message.
“I hope it’s a positive message that we’re making. We want people to talk about it; that’s what this is all about, having conversations,” Bernstein said. “This isn’t about second amendment rights; it’s not about that. This is about gun violence.”