In the Whiteaker neighborhood, threads of the Black Panther Party, Central American farm workers, LGBTQ+ community and the Black Lives Matter movement are taking shape in a mural that will be unveiled during the Friday, Aug. 26, Whiteaker Art Walk.
“The mural’s theme is 50 years of social justice struggles,” says Jessilyn Brinkerhoff, the muralist leading a group of multiracial teens in designing and creating the artwork.
The Community Alliance of Lane County came together in 1966 to take a stand against the Vietnam War. Today, CALC still stands for racial and social justice and is celebrating its 50th anniversary by creating the new mural in the Whiteaker.
“I gave us a layout and the structure of the design to work with,” Brinkerhoff says, and then she says the youth chose the content of the social justice themes and painted it together with Brinkerhoff.
Not only does the mural engage young people in the community in art, the mural project also aims to teach a history of activism that’s not in school textbooks, says Marion Malcolm, the coordinator for the project.
Malcolm is a consultant for CALC and has been working with the group since 1974.
“They know who Martin Luther King Jr. is,” says Malcolm, but when asked to name other social justice leaders, the group of teens didn’t offer many other examples.
Throughout the process of brainstorming and designing the mural, various community activists are leading workshops and giving presentations about social justice to the young students.
For example, Brinkerhoff gave a presentation on the history of mural painting, especially as it pertains to social justice and political art.
The teens themselves come from different backgrounds. “We have around a dozen kids,” Malcolm says. The “majority are Latino and the others are white.”
CALC worked to reach out to MEChA, a Latino, Hispanic and Chicano student organization, as well as other organizations to bring in teens.
“They brought a lot of Latino students in from as far as Thurston to other parts of Lane County and made sure that they had a way to get here every day,” Brinkerhoff says. “We brought in a very mixed group and very intelligent, young leaders.”
CALC unveils the mural at an open house during the Whiteaker Art Walk 5:30 to 7:30 pm Friday, Aug. 26, at CALC’s Peace and Justice Center, 458 Blair Blvd.; free to the public with speakers, live music and refreshments.