By Sujata Dand, Dallas Free Press

When Artist J.D. Moore was selected to be part of the  Absolute Equality – Juneteenth Mural Project commemorating Juneteenth, he knew he wanted to focus on South Dallas – “specifically Fair Park.”

Moore, 31, is one of six selected artists around the country participating in the national project which features large scale murals in Galveston, Shreveport, Houston, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago. 

“Fair Park has a lot of historical significance,” Moore says as he describes the panoramic painting in the courtyard of the South Dallas Cultural Center.  That’s why he chose to paint a chronological display of Fair Park’s role in promoting the understanding and awareness of Juneteenth.

Moore points to the heart of his mural — light emanating from a building representing The Hall of Negro Life. The federally funded exhibition featured at the Texas Centennial in 1936 in Fair Park was one of the first in the country to honor the history of African Americans in the United States. Moore says the exhibit celebrating Black culture sparked Juneteenth celebrations across North Texas.

The Absolute Equality-Juneteenth Mural of Dallas decorates the South Dallas Cultural Center courtyard on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Photo Credit: Sujata Dand

Despite its success, the Hall of Negro Life was deconstructed one year after its opening. This is one of the reasons Moore wanted to include the building in his mural. 

“I kind of consider myself somewhat of a historian,” Moore says. “I think that it’s important to embody the influences of past events in the present day.” 

Moore worries that as time passes, the significance of important moments can be lost. 

“For a lot of people, Juneteenth is just a day off of work or an excuse to have a pool party.  But there was great sacrifice that went into where we are today.”

Moore captures this sentiment in his mural showcasing the Black soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. The colors of the Pan-African flag fly in the background.

“The gaze of these soldiers is meant to show the struggle,” Moore says. “What they could be saying, what they could be thinking while they’re looking at you. I think that it’s important to give them that recognition.”

Moore also includes Juanita Craft in silhouette fighting alongside other women for equality. Craft, a civil rights activist, pushed to desegregate the State Fair of Texas. She spearheaded a boycott against the State Fair, which since 1936 had only allowed Black students to attend the fair on “Negro Achievement Day.”  The Juanita Craft Civil Rights House and Museum recently reopened in South Dallas and offers a more complete history of Craft’s life and Civil Rights work.  

J.D. Moore gazes at the mural with the last attendee of the mural dedication event in the blazing heat at the South Dallas Cultural Center on Monday, June 19, 2023. The first sections of the mural were stylized after the African American artist Aaron Douglass. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Ruiz

“It was a very great learning experience for me to understand that the fairgrounds weren’t built for the State Fair, which is how I’ve always associated Fair Park, but that it has this history of Texas. These figures like Juanita Craft played a huge role in shaping the fair as I know it today. So that’s kind of what I hope to have people walk away with.”

Moore lives in Fort Worth, but has a tattoo studio in Dallas. He’s been an artist since 2013. The official unveiling of his mural was yesterday evening, on Juneteenth, at the South Dallas Cultural Center.