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Inspiring Civic Engagement

[caption id="attachment_7204" align="alignright" width="211"] Blog by Associate Colette Parker[/caption] Did you hear about the 11 artists who are seeking to inspire a dialogue around civil rights and social justice movements in Atlanta? They’ve painted about 30 murals around the city to tell the story of the struggle for change and justice in Atlanta and beyond. The art exhibit, which will serve as a backdrop for Super Bowl visitors to the city this week, is called "Off The Wall: Atlanta's Civil Rights & Social Justice Journey.”  It will become part of the city’s permanent public art collection, meaning it will be maintained by the city. How refreshing! –using the transformative power of art to open up the process of civic engagement. The fact that the art project focuses on the city’s role in the civil rights and human rights movements and invites community members to continue working toward a better world resonates with me. I am also moved by the fact that before the murals were painted, the artists engaged in conversation with community members to brainstorm about which of the city’s stories (particularly those that had been unheard) should be amplified. Those conversations informed the mural designs and are an example of how to give voice to the voiceless. Here is a sampling of the messages on the murals:
  • "Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky," tells the story of homeless people (including children) who sleep under Atlanta's canopy of trees.
  • "Atlanta Strong," is a tribute to women who played a role in the fight for human rights.
  • "Monuments: We Carry the Dreams," focuses on the stories of Atlanta's undocumented youth.
  • "Beloved Community," celebrates a vision of social justice and harmony that Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to.
  • "Community Roots," depicts that character matters.
  • "Intersectional Heroes," honors Dázon Dixon Diallo, an Atlanta advocate for sexual and reproductive justice and a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS; and Joan Garner, a Fulton County Commissioner who spent decades advocating for LGBT rights.
  • "Love and Protection," includes the words “Me = We" and celebrates the power of friendship and togetherness.
  • "Remembering How Sweet Auburn Is” pays tribute to one of the wealthiest black communities in our nation during the time of its development.
The people in Atlanta who made this art project a reality deserve to be commended for recognizing this unique way of honoring the past, acknowledging the present, and seeking aspirations for the future. They deserve to be lifted up in an effort to spread the message that every city in this country is filled with inspirational untold stories and that every city in this country is filled with people who have made (and will make) a positive contribution. The public art project raises a question for each of us: What are you doing to make your neighborhood, your city, your state, our country, and our world a better place?  

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