By KENDRA SITTON | Downtown & Uptown News
DJ and World Beat Cultural Center founder Makeda “Dread” Cheatom was honored as a San Diego hero with a new mural in East Village. The mural by artist Taylor Gallegos depicts the longtime radio host DJing with the word “unity” behind her.
Cheatom explained that when she met with Gallegos ahead of the mural’s creation, Cheatom emphasized that the through line in all of her work is building unity. Unity is also celebrated on the first day of Kwanzaa.
“As the executive director of the World Beat Cultural Center, my goal is to promote unity in diversity, by teaching world peace. And that’s what we need right now is unity,” Cheatom said.
The mural is part of a project from beer company Estralla Jalisco to add bright public art to 100 communities in the Southwest United States honoring people who have had a positive impact on their neighborhood. Gallegos is one of nine artists in residence for the program.
“First brewed in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the cultural capital of Mexico renowned for its vibrant art scene, Estrella Jalisco has a long-standing tradition of bringing people together around colorful art and celebrating life,” said Jayden Kahl, Senior Director of Marketing, Estrella Jalisco. “Through this program and the artists who join us, we’ll collectively extend those values to communities across the country and make a tangible, visible impact on a local level.”
The mural honoring Cheatom is one of two featuring San Diego heroes. Cheatom grew up in Logan Heights. She attended San Diego High School and San Diego City College for broadcasting. For over 25 years, she has had her own “Reggae Makossa” radio show on 102.5 FM.
Cheatom has received several awards from local government entities, the Women’s Museum of California and more. She said this particular honor stands out because it is something people on the street will see rather than just top officials. Already, the mural is eliciting a reaction from people on the streets she cares about. Cheatom shared a story of a homeless man stopping to ask Gallegos if he was painting Makeda because he recognized her.
“There’s a Black person up there; there’s a person of color. So it empowers — empowers young people and it empowers the homeless,” Cheatom said. “Representation is very, very important.”
Cheatom has had stints of homelessness and said her background in an underserved community can show people struggling they too can make it out. A major part of her community work includes feeding and teaching homeless people.
With the World Beat Cultural Center’s Balboa Park location and her extensive time in Logan Heights, Cheatom said the East Village has always been in her backyard. The larger-than-life mural adds a splash of color to the drab area of the neighborhood.
Cheatom hopes it can be the start of new focus on the East Village. She is bursting with ideas including asking Mayor Todd Gloria to add homeless services to the building the mural is painted on or creating an artist collective. If that does not happen, she imagines a music night in the area.
“I’m really happy that there’s color out there in the Village and I look forward to working hard with you there. In the end, people also need resources, including the arts… If we can get more resources for arts and music, and we can teach and we can heal, because music is healing. The arts are a resource for healing,” Cheatom said.
The mural is located at 151 17th Street. A second mural of artist and healer Jacquelyn Alvarez is at 900 G. Street.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at email@example.com.