Kevin Hart's older brother, Robert, has one plea for Philadelphia graffiti artists: Please don't write on his little brother's face. If only for a little while.
"Let me ride by and take some pictures of this thing before y'all mess it up, please," Robert said.
Hart's brother was one of hundreds of supporters who came out to Max's Steaks for a mural dedication on the comedian's 38th birthday and Philadelphia's first-ever Kevin Hart Day. Introduced to City Council via a resolution from Councilman David Oh earlier this year, Kevin Hart Day, Oh said Thursday, "recognizes and honors Kevin Hart as a Philadelphia comedy icon."
In addition to the resolution, the comedian was also presented Thursday with a number of other honors, including an additional resolution from the Pennsylvania State Senate, the state's coat of arms, a Phillies jersey, and a small Liberty Bell model. Philly-based rappers Chill Moody and Freeway provided musical entertainment.
"I think it's the biggest honor you can get," Hart said in an interview before he accepted the honor. "I am who I am because of the city of Philadelphia. I feel like I was made because of my environment, and it's not something that I take for granted. For what it's worth, there's a heavy piece of pride that comes with it."
Many of the speakers at the event, including Councilman Oh, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, and State Sen. Sharif Street, pointed to Hart's North Philly beginnings — he grew up near Max's at 15th and Erie — and his inspirational attitude when discussing why his face was emblazoned on the brick wall of the restaurant. Others focused on Hart's designation by Forbes as the highest-paid comedian in the business.
"Kevin Hart is a favorite son of the city of Philadelphia," Blackwell said Thursday. "He is the hardest-working and most successful comedian in the business and, like Philadelphia legend Allen Iverson, demonstrates that greatness comes in all sizes."
Hart is usually about 5-foot-4, but on the side of Max's, he's a little grander. The mural is a portrait of Hart surrounded by the phrase "Live, Laugh, Love." The idea, Mural Arts executive director Jane Golden said, is to inspire neighborhood kids to "see the possibilities of what they can do."
Hart agrees. "I want the kids of this younger generation to aspire and want to do and be so much more," he said. "The more that I can do that, and strive toward those things, the better."
That message was evident to attendee Barbara Diaz, 49, who described herself Thursday as "not really" a big Kevin Hart Fan. Yet Diaz, who's from Torresdale, said seeing Hart back in the neighborhood was good for the area. "It brings people together instead of fighting and arguing and all that other stuff. Celebrate," Diaz said Thursday. "It's nice to see Kevin Hart down here, if he can put it between movies and stuff. Pencil us in the calendar and come on down."
Hart, who still has family in the North Philadelphia area, will inevitably be back at some point. However, the comedian said he wants to return for 2018's Kevin Hart Day with a few changes, including a charitable component that he hopes will do some good for the neighborhood.
"We will not go backward," Hart said. "When I say Kevin Hart Day will mean something, it will mean something."
Thursday, of course, was not the first Kevin Hart Day ever, just Philly's first. Previously, the State of California honored the comedian with his own day on Feb. 22 — something Hart said pales in comparison with the honor from his hometown.
"I've got days all over now — they're starting to add up. Let's see how many more I can get," Hart said. "But this is definitely the most important. This is the one that really stands out."