By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
OKLAHOMA CITY — There’s a new mural at Oklahoma City’s Plaza District created through the “With Love Project” spotlighting the case of Julius Jones who has been on Oklahoma’s death row for nearly 20 years.
Jones, 40, was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1999 fatal shooting of Paul Howell, a businessman from Edmond, but he has always maintained his innocence.
On March 8, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board agreed to move forward to a “Stage Two” hearing which will review Jones’ commutation application sometime in June.
Over six million people have signed a Change.org petition asking the Pardon and Parole Board and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence.
Jones’ case has garnered support from celebrities including activist Kim Kardashian West, renowned death penalty attorney Bryan Stevenson, NBA players Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, and Blake Griffin and Dallas Cowboy quarterback Dak Prescott.
The “With Love Project” is a collaboration between local activist and hip-hop artist, Jabee Wlliams, and the Oklahoma Mural Syndicate (OMS) the nonprofit that manages the Plaza Walls, one of Oklahoma City’s top locations for public art.
OMS was founded by Brandi Guthery, Dylan Bradway and Kristopher Kanaly with a mission to advocate and create public art throughout Oklahoma.
Last summer, Jabee and OMS began developing ideas how to amplify Black voices and artists of color through the Eastern corridor of 23rd Street. This month, the Julius Jones mural was completed with the help of Mensa, artist Tony Thunders and others.
Studies show that murals build a sense of community and can make an area more welcoming and walkable, while promoting local talent.
Cece Jones Davis, activist and founder of the Julius Jones Coalition posted on Facebook on April 12, “Huge thank you to Vic Mensa for commissioning this mural in support of #JuliusJones. A special shout out to the artist Tony Thunder for this incredible work, and to Jabee Williams and Tricia Webber for your support and advocacy of Julius’ behalf.
“Stop by the Plaza Walls in the Plaza District in Oklahoma City on 16th Street to check out this powerful tribute to the fight for Julius’ freedom,” she added.
Mensa is a Chicago rapper, singer, songwriter and activist currently signed to Roc Nation.
“The fact that artists are using their platform and resources to help save my brother, Julius Jones, is incredible,” Jabee told The City Sentinel. “I was happy to work with Vic Mensa to create something that honors our struggle for justice.”
“Murals are a wonderful tool for improving any visual landscape. From a place-making and business perspective, they provide a huge return for a small investment,” said Kris Kanaly, president of the Oklahoma Mural Syndicate. “They also give communities a sense of ownership, provide a beacon for tourism, and give a unique identity to their surroundings.”
Jabee said, “Being from the Eastside of Oklahoma City, I tend to be involved in art projects and events in other areas of the city. ‘With Love’ is something for my community to love and embrace with Black artists expressing their different styles reflecting community culture and pride.
“Our community has some of the most artistic people in the city who are at the forefront of creativity,” Jabee added.
Jillian Taylor of the OU Daily wrote: “Throughout his career, Williams has been a vocal social activist in Oklahoma — speaking on behalf of the Black community through his music and bringing awareness to the story of death row inmate and former OU student Julius Jones.”
Jabee has been a passionate advocate for Jones and his fight for innocence, creating the Walk for Julius from the Oklahoma State Capitol and ending at McAlester prison where Julius is on death row, as well as writing the song “Until You’re Free” about Jones.
To learn more about the Julius Jones case, visit justiceforjuliusjones.com. For more information about the “With Love Project”, call Kris Kanaly at 503-729-8065.