On a rain-soaked Wednesday in late February, I worked on revising lines of poetry with a group of high school students in the Bronx. At The Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts (BHSWCA), these revisions came with high stakes. Why? These lines will be part of a permanent wall mural that will live inside the school building for years to come. Building on the sense of community that Community-Word Project Muralist Max Allbee had already engendered with the students, all of us got to work.
For about an hour, we essentially did three things.
1. We “unpacked” the initial mural sketch (shown below) that Max created – analyzing the visual components that were inspired by students’ ideas on the theme of “educational equity”. Students spoke about how these visual components and the theme impact their daily lives.
2. We “unpacked” the original mural line that came directly from the students after their initial brainstorming session – making sure to record key words and phrases that had sprung from both discussions. The students were encouraged to reassess the line’s relevance to the overall theme.
“Your past and present DO NOT define your future.
As long as you are breathing there is a way.”
3. Then, after having explored explicit connections between the lines and the sketch, we used our student-derived word bank as a resource to revise. From a seed of earnestness, the final mural lines blossomed into what you see below.
“How your past and present is perceived does not define your future.
To visualize is to transcend,
To persevere is to overcome.”
I was so enthralled by our revision process that I forgot that guests were arriving that very day for a student presentation on the final design and mural lines as well as a breakdown of the creative process. Principal Terri Grey, the assistant principals and additional teachers joined the collaborating art teacher, Ms. Beth Fidoten, on this committee. Students overcame their nerves to clearly articulate the steps taken to create and weave these elements together based on the theme of “educational equity”. They owned the moment!
All indications point to this permanent mural having a strong impact on a future generation of students at BHSWCA.