Student-Made Church Mural Commemorates Paul Robeson High School

Community mural planning heats up during a hot streak in the middle of August. (Photo courtesy Paul Robeson Freedom School)
Community mural planning heats up during a hot streak in the middle of August. (Photo courtesy Paul Robeson Freedom School)

By Gwynne Hogan

The bland, back façade of the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew on Clinton Avenue will be transformed this week after an art project called Community Mural Project, made up of students and community members from the Paul Robeson Freedom School who call the church home. After wrangling funds and diverse artistic visions, the artists will unveil the mural on Sept. 20 in honor to the Paul Robeson High School.

The board of education sentenced Paul Robeson High School to closure in late 2009, but students fought back by organizing and raising awareness for the school and its struggles.

“They were inspired by occupy Wall Street and the ‘Justice for Treyvon Martin’ campaign,” Justin Wedes, Co-President of the Paul Robeson Freedom School told The Nabe.

Although the board of education’s decision was final, students continued their activism by founding the Freedom School in summer of 2012, housed at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill. Alumni from Paul Robeson High School now tutor and intern at the Freedom School.

“The last thing they wanted to do was to commemorate the school in a mural,” Wedes said.

After extensive student input and artistic direction by Sophia Dawson, it was decided that the mural will pay tribute to Paul Robeson, the African-American activist, singer, and actor. It will also depict the students’ fight to save Paul Robeson High School and incorporate other struggles in the community, such as Hurricane Sandy and a fire at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew last Christmas.

“The mural really integrates all of these challenges that we face into one single, beautiful artistic depiction,” Wedes said. “We’re very excited to share it with the community.”

All are invited to attend the unveiling on Friday, Sept. 20, from 6 to 8:30 where a projection of the completed mural will shine upon the partly finished wall. Community members, youth activists and clergy will speak.

“We hope that for many years to come this mural will inspire and enlighten people,” Wedes said. “[We hope it will] remind them the legacy of a very important African American community leader and also the young people and community that rallied around his name for social justice and community empowerment.”

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