This summer, a team of young women artists illuminated and celebrated the power of women of color within both the public and private spheres through a new mural in Crown Heights. Their mural, entitled “Passing Wisdom, Planting Seeds,” investigates and elevates perceptions of women of color's self-worth in order to challenge how racism and sexism impact contemporary culture. Inspired by the strength and community leadership of the mural site, Mama Dee's Community Garden, particular attention was given to the Afro-Caribbean women of Crown Heights. Through this process, the young artists owned their roles as leaders in building a more just and equitable world.
The mural team worked as part of the young women’s leadership development program, Voices Her’d, a part of the two-month long flagship summer youth employment program, the Summer Leadership Institute. In lessons facilitated by Co-Lead Artists Jazmine Hayes and Danielle McDonald, the young artists researched, designed, and fabricated the mural.
The composition is structured around two archetypical figures, an elder and a young woman. The elder woman, representing ancestral wisdom, looks upward at the younger woman, her hand stretched with an encouraging, supportive gesture. The young woman, modeled after one of the youth participants, continues the upward gaze, looking towards the future. Throughout the mural, symbols of figurative, architectural, spiritual, and natural importance to women of color gesture to the complexity of individual and communal identity: A Yoruba female deity holds hands with a 1960’s era civil rights protester. A boy wearing a crown referencing Labor Day Parade gazes thoughtfully at Ieshia Evans, who was recently featured in the viral protest image at Baton Rouge, following the shooting of Alton Sterling. By juxtaposing these many images, the mural tells the impressive story of women of color’s power, activism, and potential.
Through the mural-making process, the young women have become ambassadors for positive social change. Youth artist Lydia-Rose Aigbedion (21) reflected on the impact of the mural on her participation in the mural-making process: “I have always considered myself an advocate for social justice. However, I was not as aware of women's issues in public spaces as I am with them in private spaces, such as in home or classroom settings. This mural has given me the confidence to project my thoughts to a wider, more public audience. It is my hope that this mural, and all the work that I put into this mural, will support social justice for years to come.”