Black History Month Murals Serve to Inspire Students

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Originally published on Author Jade Cunninham

Local school brings inspiration to students through art during Black History Month

PHOENIX — Walk down the halls at ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix Downtown Campus, and you will see multiple, life-sized faces including Barack Obama, Maya Angelou and Kobe Bryant. 

The murals are part of the school’s Black History Month celebration, where all month long students can look at the images and learn about who’s being shown and why.

For students like Ajok Ajak, it’s neat to see.

“A lot of times when people think of Black History Month they’re saying good job to Black people and what they’ve done,” she said. “But a lot of times people don’t think about how they were pioneers. There were people risking their lives doing so many things so that we now can live in a world where we’re a lot more accepted.”

The school’s principal, Junius Yates, said they are meant to inspire students.

“We just kind of picked legendary figures if you will,” Yates said. “The point of the mural is to have a motivational, inspirational type pictures in the hallways that kids walk past every day. We just kind of walk past them and gaze up at them and take a moment to think about who that individual is and what their contribution to society is/was.”

The portraits, with bright, yellow backgrounds take up entire hallways. They catch the eyes of anyone who walks by them, including senior, Samuel Apodaca. He said the image that speaks the most to him is the one of Kobe Bryant.

“I liked his effort he put into his craft,” he said. “I feel like he had a lot of passion for that and I feel like he was a good example of what people should have in their career. I hope to have that same passion for something in my future.”

“I just really have a passion for people who pursue things they love,” said Ajak.

Ajak is also a senior at the school. She said she was surprised when she saw the murals go up and appreciates the school honoring these individuals and this month.

“Kids can see these and say, ‘Oh! It doesn’t matter what my background is, what my skin is, if these diverse people can do it so can I,” she said. “So I think they’re trying to show all opportunities are available to everyone.”

Ajak spoke with 12News while standing in front of a large portrait of poet and activist, Amanda Gorman. Ajak said she always feels inspired when she walks by and sees this particular picture.

“I can relate to her because she’s an African American and I’m an African American,” she said. “Amanda Gorman, you know, youngest inaugural poet in the history of the United States that’s a really big title to have. And to think that a woman like her who shares the same skin as me, we probably come from different backgrounds but we can relate in certain things. The fact she’s able to achieve something of this length it’s just really inspiring.”

The pictures also show Simone Biles, Nelson Mandela, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Dr. Mae Jemison. All people who’ve achieved big dreams, broken barriers and have made an impact on this world.

“Going to college is next,” said Apodaca. “I’m going to NAU for Mechanical Engineering so I hope to do something as great as one of them.”

Yates said it’s the first time the school has done this project and plans to continue it for years to come so students can be reminded of the people before them, and who they can grow up to be.

“I’m really inspired by it,” Ajak said. “I was really happy to see they weren’t just showing the regular faces that people can know by name but showing people who come from all different walks of life and showing how they contributed to their field and what it is they’re passionate about.”