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ETO OTITIGBE | “Peaceful Journey” Sculpture Memorial for Heavy D | The New York Times

10 May

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

A Memorial for ‘The Rapper Your Mother Liked’

Michelle Falkenstein

Michelle Falkenstein Reporting from Mount Vernon, N.Y.

“Peaceful Journey,” a new abstract sculpture in Mount Vernon, honors Heavy D, the rapper, record producer and actor, who grew up in this city just north of the Bronx.

Here’s what I saw at the unveiling last week →

The mayor of Mount Vernon, Shawyn Patterson-Howard, a classmate and friend of Heavy D’s, spoke at the event.

“His music was the soundtrack of our city, and his positive message and infectious energy inspired generations of artists and fans,” she said. “He put Mount Vernon on the map.”

In 2011, Heavy D died at age 44 from a pulmonary embolism.

Born in Jamaica as Dwight Arrington Myers, Heavy D moved with his family to Mount Vernon when he was 2.

Wes Jackson, the founder of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, credits Heavy D, who saw success in the 1980s and ’90s, with opening the door for other Mount Vernon hip-hop artists like Sean “Diddy” Combs.

“He didn’t curse,” Jackson told me. “He was the rapper your mother liked.”

“I remember dancing to Heavy D’s music at parties,” said Eto Otitigbe, the Brooklyn artist who was selected to create a sculpture for the city. It was his idea to take inspiration for the piece from the rapper.

The work, over 18 feet tall, is made from marble and both stainless and Cor-Ten steel. The timing of the unveiling was fortuitous; a yearlong, 50th anniversary celebration of hip-hop is underway.

“Peaceful Journey” is at a busy intersection near Exit 7 on the Cross County Parkway, where it will both welcome people to Mount Vernon and bid them farewell.

As the song that inspired it goes: “So through all your travels, I’m wishing you a peaceful journey.”

Available Artwork by ETO OTITIGBE