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Creating a neighborhood mural

August 24, 2009 3:21:12 PM PDT
A group of teens is getting a lot of attention on 122nd Street in Harlem. They're creating a special mural for their neighborhood that is rooted in history."I seen them down here on the floor mixing the paints and wondering what the heck they are doing," said Roshell McHenry, who lives in the neighborhood.

What they're doing also focuses on the future, intertwining the lives of those living in Harlem with a pivotal time in history. The mural they're creating is a nod to Emory Douglas, the revolutionary artist of the Black Panther party. The kids met with Douglas and, using images from his work, designed a creation. It was a life-changing experience for the young people.

"Someone who actually lived that and actually made a difference, it was huge," artist Hanifa Hakim-El said. "You can imagine being there right with him."

The mural has three main themes: youth, family and one of Douglas' signature figures--the profile of a man surrounded by rays symbolizing an outpouring of knowledge.

"When he was producing his pieces in the Black Panther party, it was in the same spirit, very reflective of the feeling and emotions of the community he was feeling about civil rights and just the struggles that were going on of that day," said Ayeshah Wiltshire, with the Studio Museum.

The effort is a partnership between the New Museum, Studio Museum and Groundswell, and it highlights the fact that art can be used as a tool for social change.

"We're open to talking, we want you to stop and ask questions and the kids, it is a great opportunity for the kids to be engaged," said Amy Sananman, with Groundswell.

Douglas' images were just part of the equation. The kids also spent time talking to people in the neighborhood and incorporated their concerns and what mattered to them.

"Some of the same issues panthers were talking about are still relevant and think that's the connection the students made," said Cathleen Lewis, with the New Museum

Web produced by Maura Sweeney


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