Aretha Franklin, C Train, art installation, Leroy McCarthy, MTA
Photo: Leroy McCarthy for BK Reader

Respect goes out to New York City’s Mass Transit Authority, following this morning’s installation of the word “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” above the tiled “Franklin Ave” signs lining the inside of the C train’s Franklin Avenue subway station.

The installation, located at Franklin and Fulton Street in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, is a nod to the enormous impact of music icon Aretha Franklin, who passed away two weeks ago on August 16, 2018.

The MTA, however, doesn’t get all of the credit: The idea started with Brooklyn resident Leroy McCarthy of Heterodoxx Inc., who, the day after Franklin passed away, got together with artist Vincent Ballentine and decided to stencil the word “Aretha” in front of the word “Franklin” at the station. He used a temporary chalk spray that would eventually fade.

Within hours, the stencil got the attention of the media which began reaching out to McCarthy to ask for a quote.

“I saw the attention it was getting, so I reached out to MTA and asked if they would be open to a collaboration, suggesting a mural that said ‘Respect’ on the exterior wall,”said McCarthy who, with Ballentine, is responsible for a number of murals around Bedford Stuyvesant honoring African-American icons. “They came back instead with the idea of putting up ‘Respect’ throughout the station.”

But McCarthy didn’t hear back from them again until this morning at 8:00am, when they informed him that the tile placard had just been completed. McCarthy rushed to the station. It was a moment of pride when he saw it, he said.

“[Aretha Franklin’s] music is part of our lives and so many movements, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Women’s Empowerment Movement to just working people trying to get ahead,” said McCarthy. “For the black community, especially from the 60s to the 80s, you heard her music at every family gatherings, at barbeques… She was a significant voice and powerful presence throughout much of our lives.”

The MTA is still considering giving McCarthy and Ballentine the green light to paint a mural on the exterior of the station, according to MTA representative, Jon Weinstein. McCarthy also has suggested to the MTA adding the word “Respect” in black letters over a white background on the back of the metrocard.

“And we’re waiting to hear back from them on that,” said McCarthy. “But if nothing else happens, I think this made an impact, and I feel very proud of this.”

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