“I am who I say I am. This is no gimmick! There are those who set out to kill steal and destroy, and there are those who set out to prevent that, or to cleanup the damage that was caused. I’m no gangster, so you figure out which of these categories I fall into. Then ask YOURSELF, “What is my life about?” Meditate on that.” (Demetris BAMR Washington Facebook post 10-5-2013)
Like the American Founding Father whose last name he shares, Demetris “BAMR”(Being A Man Righteously) Washington wants to leave his community a better place than he found it. He is doing this in many ways – through the art he creates on canvas, the public murals he has and is continuing to create on buildings across the entire Sacramento area, his encouragement and mentoring of younger artists and his example as a “righteous man”.
Washington’s life has taken him on a journey across the state of California from his birthplace in Fort Ord to Oakland, then to Stockton, Sacramento, Los Angeles and now back to Sacramento. It hasn’t been a perfect life. He, like most of us, works hard everyday to improve himself and change himself for the better. He credits his mother and Pastor Goudeaux of the Calvary Christian Center here in Sacramento with creating a turning point in his life.
“My mama convinced me to go to church [Calvary Christian Center here in Sacramento] with her,” he said. “I heard such a powerful message from Pastor Goudeaux that I had no choice but to fight my pride and listen to what the man was saying. Little did I know, I would spend the next two years of my life at that place, giving everything that I had to change who I was. It was at Calvary that I gained a new name. It was at Calvary that B.A.M.R. was born.”
While Washington did attend the Art Institute of Graphic Design for a short time, most of his art training has been self-taught. He experimented and read extensively, developing his style over time. It is a folkish expressionism which draws its images from the varied cultural influences which make up Sacramento and California (Hispanic, Asian, and his own African-American background). He has also been impacted by local artists.
“David Garibaldi, while not an actual mentor, has definitely been one of my greater influences along with Shaun Burner and a few others,” Washington said.
One memory in particular stands out for Washington. He, along with several other artists, was hired to live paint in the Arco Arena lobby for the Kings opening game in Nov. of 2009. The crowd’s impressively enthusiastic reception of Garibaldi caused Washington to reflect on his own creative impact.
“Prior to that, I had never believed that it was possible to touch so many people at once through art,” he said. “After seeing just how powerful his own performance was, I started to think to myself, ‘Damn, what can I do to impact this world the same way?’ Change was inevitable.”
Washington hopes to give back to the Sacramento community with more than just the public murals he has created.
“I also want to be remembered as a voice of my own people’s experience,” he said.
He envisions opening an art gallery of his own in a few years, using it as a place to promote and mentor young and upcoming artists. The artist is also deeply committed to the Beauty of Sacramento Project—a local effort to enrich the corners of our great city through the creative residents of Sacramento (my personal note here: I would like it even more if they included writers and writing as one of the mediums of change).
Demetris “BAMR” Washington is a talented, up-and-coming artist who understands that his abilities and recognition enable him to do more than leave behind works of art and make money. He understands that they allow him to create positive change in others and is willing to make the effort to do this on his journey to “becoming a man righteously”.