After all, the building was located in his district and in the heart of the M.L.K. community. He served as a key resource to mural project staff, offering insights into the history, businesses and personalities important to the street.
What he didn't expect was to be included in the mural itself. Freeman recently talked about his involvement with the project and the significance of the mural.
Q: You are depicted in a mural panel that "bridges the future with the past, rejoicing over remembrance, growth and freedom." How did you find out you were included?
A: I had explained my connection to the street to the project staff. I worked as a paper boy growing up to earn money to go to the Liberty Theatre (now the site of the AT&T building where the mural is painted). Being on the mural came out of those conversations. To be sure, I was speechless and emotional, honored and thrilled. My heart has not stopped pounding yet.
My job as a paper boy taught me so many lessons: being reliable and dependable; the value of work; the value of earning my own money and saving; setting priorities about what is most important (work vs. play); taking pride in meeting people's expectations; completing a task like delivering the paper regardless of weather or lateness of the hour.
Q: What do you hope people take away from this mural?
A: In all of the images, there is the history of the African-American people in Chattanooga. There is a sense of our present and future — that we were and are a proud people, and we work to achieve and contribute to our community in as many ways as possible. We still wish to contribute, to achieve and to excel. Our aspirations for ourselves and our families are the same as any others'. Our business district and our neighborhood are open to all. Come join us, and be our friends.
Q: What impact can this mural have on the neighborhood and its future development?
A: The mural will be an economic engine for the M.L. King business district. First, it will generate pride among merchants and residents. It will bring the businesses on the street closer together and will serve as a draw for tourists to visit and do business with local merchants. Finally, I hope the mural will spur investment on the boulevard. I hope businesses will spring up on adjacent and side streets where possible. I look for long-term impact to reach all around the M.L. King business area.