What do Kamala Harris, Colin Kaepernik, John Lewis, George Washington Carver and Barack and Michelle Obama have in common?
They are titans of Black excellence in their respective fields. But perhaps most relevant to students in the south Atlanta community: they are the latest additions to a series of inspiring murals at Carver STEAM Academy organized by COR.
COR is cultivating a positive school community by bringing beauty to the once-drab walls of the campus’ historic Archive building. COR is a non-profit organization that partners with Carver STEAM to remove non-academic barriers to student success by supporting them with behavioral health and social-emotional programming.
“We wanted to beautify the space and make the Archive building more student friendly,” says Jennifer Bartl, Chief Operating Officer of COR. “But perhaps most importantly, we wanted it to be culturally relevant and reflect what’s going on in the world with social and racial injustice.”
COR invited Atlanta artist and activist Christina Ward to paint a mural at Carver STEAM that highlights Black excellence and inspires students to achieve their full potential. Christina, a childhood friend of COR’s co-founder Jennifer Greenlee, gifted the mural to the school because she wanted to find a way to give of her time and talents to COR’s cause.
The gorgeous mural features bright colors and inspiring quotes. Amanda Gorman, Lena Waithe, James Baldwin, Stacey Abrams and Jean Michel Basquiat are also featured in the artwork.
“It’s so important for students to see themselves in the art,” says Christina. “I hope that they will look at this wall and see the power of determination and persistence, and what can happen if you don’t give in to the status quo.”
“It was important for COR to let students know that we built this space for them,” says Jennifer. “To give them some pride and ownership in the space.”
Christina is now working on murals at Price Middle School and Thomasville Heights Elementary School to spotlight Black history and excellence, from the time of the Egyptians through the Civil Rights Movement. She plans to work with local artists of color to further amplify the message and hopes that students might get involved as well, believing that school walls are the perfect canvas.
“You don’t always learn about the history of Black excellence and prosperity,” says Christina. “In these murals, students will see where they come from and what they’ve accomplished. We hope it gives them a sense of pride in who they are and their ability to achieve their own dreams. And to tell a different narrative other than that of slavery and escape.”