The banner art seen above is cropped from a photograph I took of a painted mural in Topeka, Kansas, USA in August, 2018. I was there with my family visiting a dear friend with whom we had become very close during our time in America. The stunning mural painted on a large brick wall faces a school formally known as Monroe Elementary but now designated a National Historic Landmark because it commemorates one of the most famous court rulings in US history – Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka. In 1951, Mr Brown and twelve other parents filed a lawsuit calling for the integration of schools in Topeka. In 1954 the Supreme Court declared racially segregated schools as unconstitutional and “The decision changed the city of Topeka and altered the course of a nation”. When preparing for the 65th celebration of this landmark ruling in 2019 civic leaders in Topeka decided a community arts based response was needed to give the historic significance of the former school building a “stage and a microphone to send it out into the world”. The mural was started in April 2018 and completed as a community project in July of the same year (I did not realise how fresh the paint was when I photographed it a month later!) Among the many inspiring quotations and colourful images, one phrase particularly appealed to me, ‘Nevertheless she persisted’. On my return to the UK I investigated its provenance and the origin of these words can be found here. The phrase continues to resonate with me. I may not have the political clout of Senator Elizabeth Warren, but I would like to think that over my thirty plus years’ teaching career I have and will ‘nevertheless’ continue to persist for the importance of the arts in education and civic life. It’s why I do what I do.
It’s hard to photograph the whole wall!
The quote in the middle by Maya Angelou reads, “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” The ‘Nevertheless she persisted’ quote can just about be seen beneath!