God Help Us Save Flint. Happy Valentine’s Day, Rickey.
Never Forgotten. We Love Gram. Freed Amir.
These are just a few of the thousands of messages that have been painted on The Flint Block, a concrete structure at 12th Street and Hammerburg Road – messages of hope, memorials to lost loved ones, birthday and anniversary messages. For years, community members and graffiti artists have been painting the iconic Flint landmark.
According to My City Magazine reader Timm Allen, the first message was painted in 1974 by Axel Bublitz, a German exchange student at Southwestern High School who lived with the Knecht family. “He wanted to say goodbye to all of us,” Timm wrote. “After the weeds and grass were pulled away, students began to use it to promote events at the school. The second painting was the Southwestern Colt in blue and white.” Timm also reports that the term “The Rock” came about when a Flint Journal news reporter called it that. “The correct term is ‘The Block,’” he asserts.
The Block even has its own Facebook page, where people share memories and photos of the landmark. Kim Latting Simons shared her thoughts on the page and sums up the sentiment of many Flint folks. “The rock is a happy place, sad place and an emotional place,” she wrote. “It is an asset to our community, a timeline of people, young and old. I love the expressions of emotions and the journeys it has taken! It has been a living testament to me for as long as I can remember.”
|“I am proud to say that I was an exchange student at Southwestern High School from Germany. I painted The Block with my host sisters and friends in 1985, because we wanted the teachers to stop their strike. And, of course, we painted birthday wishes too – and messages for the different teams.”
|“In 1988, I was in the last graduating class of Southwestern before it became the Academy. We skipped class to paint The Block in ‘protest.’ Were we really being political? I don’t know. I was there because I had all my credits and didn’t need to be in class anyway.”
|“On Valentine’s Day in 2003, I painted The Rock with a college roommate from Kettering. We painted one boyfriend’s name, took a pic and then painted over it with the other boyfriend’s name. We then framed the pics and gave them to them that night! My boyfriend proposed one year later to the day!”
|“Two of my friends and I painted it when Amir Hekmati was freed from his Iranian imprisonment.”
|“I go past The Rock on my way to work, five days a week, and I look every time to see what is on it today. Some are touching and some are sad. Some are just amazing pieces of art. I love The Rock (or Block.) I think the one that sticks in my mind the most is the white one that said: God Help Us Save Flint. Later, I was at a Kid Rock concert and he showed a picture of it during his performance of ‘Times Like These.’ The crowd went wild!”
|“This past Easter, I painted a message of hope. I was pleasantly surprised that other graffiti artists left it alone for two weeks!”
|“Since I lived a stone’s throw from The Flint Rock, my memories are too numerous to mention. I have enjoyed it since the first painting.”
|“We painted it for my mom’s birthday in September of 2012. Someone painted over it 20 minutes after we left, so we went back and repainted it.”
Angelica Angel Torres
|“I just wonder how many inches of paint are on it.”
| “Did you know it was only a five-by-five cement block when it was made?”
| “Kayla O’Mara’s teammates on the Flint (FLY) Swim Team painted in honor of Kayla on the anniversaries of her passing.”
| “My good friend and I painted Gumby and Pokey on the Flint Rock.”
| “I’ve painted it a couple times. I love the Flint Rock!”