We got our first glimpse at the beautiful mural in Umma Park (Woodruff and Ocean Avenues), created in collaboration with CITYarts, back in August, but the ribbon was officially cut on Wednesday at a brief ceremony that included members of Community Board 14, the city Parks Department, the 70th Precinct, and the Flatbush Development Corporation.
The mural took years of fundraising and months of planning. Artist Damien Mitchell worked with students from Ditmas IS 62 weekly to come up with ideas for the mural. “It’s not just about the painting. Our workshops cover a variety of skills and, most importantly, students learn how to resolve conflict.”
Kevin Jeffrey, commissioner of Brooklyn parks, started off the ceremony congratulating all involved in the project. “This mural has breathed life into this space.”
Community Board 14 President Alvin Berk spoke about how proud he was that the Community Board was a part of the project. “This is the result of a lot of people working together,” said Berk.
Several of the student involved in the project were presented with certificates of accomplishment. Nyah Wallace, 13, was one of the students who worked on the mural. She pointed out the flowers that she painted, which she was particularly proud of. “I really enjoyed working on this and I want to do more painting.”
Ed Powell, president of the 70th Precinct Community Council, remembered what the park looked like in the 1970s when he and other community members started Umma Group, a civilian neighborhood patrol who’s name comes from the Arabic word for community.
“There was a lot of crime in the area and I had to keep my three kids inside. Our window looked out over the lot and it was full of trash and drug dealers.” said Powell. “That’s why we started the neighborhood patrol, and we would try to clean up the lot. We worked with the police to get the drug dealers out.”
Because of the group’s efforts, the neighbors unofficially began calling the lot Umma Park. The city eventually made it a city park and officially named it after the group.
Now CITYarts has helped make the space a more desirable space to be. Artist Damien Mitchell said that since the mural went up more people have been hanging out in the park, having barbecues and other gatherings.
“This mural enlivens the whole area,” said Powell. “I”m so thankful and happy that this has happened.”