City Council Should Move Forward With Hope-Fueled Mural
Hope is the light at the end of any tunnel, willing us forward through turmoil. Hope is what we should be striving toward and investing our energies into. Hope is what five individuals from our own high school want to share with our community.
The Anti-Bias Club of South Pasadena High School is led by five diverse and determined students. For almost two years now, their hope has been to bring into our community a work of art that would celebrate “the strength, diversity, pride, beauty and intersectionality of the Black community and diaspora.”
Inspired by the events following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the movement for anti-racist change through art, this group began their own research into the history and culture of our town. Through their efforts, they found Los Angeles-based artist Zach Brown. A collaboration between the students and Brown has resulted in the creation of a BLM mural that would bring a new beauty to our town and educate the community about Black history and the importance of our continued anti-racist work for the current and future generations.
The mural depicts the history, the stories, and the culture of South Pasadena’s Black community, as well as highlighting several prominent historical Black individuals.
It is my understanding that the mural’s design and location were approved by the Public Arts and Park and Recreation Commission in September 2021. Yet, the city has yet to move forward or even put the project on the City Council’s meeting agendas.
It is just as important that we hear and give space to understand the story told by the efforts of these five individuals as it is that we, as a community, help them to see this mural through to completion. It can be overwhelming at times, the speed at which the world around us is changing and growing. We are all being forced to confront and reconcile aspects of ourselves, our cultures, and our beliefs that are new and perhaps uncomfortable. But this story brings hope. It’s a light, a belief, a goal.
We have five members of our community, representing past, present, and future generations, who have set out to make a significant mark on their world. Their dedication to this project is an inspiration to us all — through their perseverance and unrelenting determination to make their voice heard, they bring hope that we can change, we can improve the world little by little.
This mural will be an important addition to our community. And for many, a reminder and celebration of those depicted and their importance.
I implore you as the community that took part in creating the garden in which the young minds have blossomed to now stand forward in support of their efforts.
Karissa Adams, South Pasadena
BLM Mural Needed in Former Sundown Town
I write this letter with conflicted feelings about the city that I live in. I am a mother, artist, educator and community activist. My values center on anti-racism, social justice, equity, and access to those who are disproportionately affected. I moved to South Pasadena so that my sons could thrive in an excellent public school system and in a diverse community. I joined the Public Art Commission for the city of South Pasadena to model for my sons that service is important, and positive change happens when you actively participate in its process.
I later learned that South Pasadena was a sundown town, barring anyone of color to live within its limits but allowed people of color to work in South Pasadena, as long as they were gone by sundown. I also learned that I live in city that had “white only” housing covenants. In 2015, a friend of mine bought her home here, and tucked away in very fine print, she clearly saw the words on the deed: “No persons of any race other than the White or Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot, except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race…”
Recently, the City Council voted to approve a sundown town resolution while we wait for final approval for the long-anticipated Black Lives Matter mural. In response to the brutal killings of many innocent Black lives leading up to the social uprising of 2020, the Anti-Bias Club of South Pasadena High School responded and organized to honor Black lives. These young folks place their principles on anti-racism, diversity, inclusion and equity and recognize how public art can champion these principles and confront the city to reckon with its racist history. The mural beautifully honors a pantheon of Black luminaries, and the Anti-Bias Club was thoughtful in their process, deep research, community engagement, public art best practices, presentations, and even developing a website. And, at the heart of it all is their hopeful vision for the future, a future I would want to see for my community.
Phung Huynh, South Pasadena
Phung Huynh is chair of the South Pasadena Public Art Commission.