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Published on February 20, 2024
Phoenix and Chapel Hill Celebrate African American Pioneers with Nationwide MuralSource: Facebook/City of Phoenix, AZ USA

Lucretia Torva's brushes are marking history one stroke at a time across downtown Phoenix. The artist's dedication to the Black History Mural Project has exploded into a countrywide celebration of African American pioneers via the language of art on walls that don't need words to communicate their potent messages.

According to ABC15, this Phoenix-based initiative, started in 2021, is now responsible for over 100 murals nationwide, with Arizona proudly home to more than 60. Whether it's a grand portrayal of Stokely Carmichael, or the lesser-known narratives of trailblazers such as Wendell Scott, each mural serves as a "classroom" – sparking curiosity, honoring history, and inspiring education. No less important, is the story of an older man who, upon seeing his likeness reflected on a gigantic scale said, "I've never seen me represented that big."

On the East Coast, a similar project in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area has emerged, showcasing 12 local Black luminaries. Kiara Sanders, the artist behind the new Chapel Hill mural, told The Daily Tar Heel, "I decided to use vibrant colors so that when people drive or walk by these faces that I’ve painted, it will be eye-catching and they will want to stop and learn."

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro mural brings attention to figures like Valerie Foushee, a North Carolina State Senator; Howard Lee, the first Black mayor of Chapel Hill and the South; and Nurse Adeline Compton, the town's first Black employee. Funded and supported by a web of community organizations including the Town of Chapel Hill and the Orange County Arts Commission, it extends a vision first conceived 15 years ago. Echoing the educational focus, the chairperson of the education committee of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Dianne Peerman Pledger, emphasized, "The mural will tell the history, educate young people in the community, and will celebrate the contributions of African Americans in our community," as reported by The Daily Tar Heel.

Both mural projects, however far apart, are concrete affirmations that Black history isn't just a February moment but an indelible, year-round presence to be acknowledged, learned from, and celebrated. Phoenix and Chapel Hill stand as beacons of this resonant messaging – one brushstroke, one wall, and one community at a time.