After more than two years of planning and overcoming a few roadblocks, four Eureka High School clubs — the Native American Club, the Black Student Union, the LatinX Club and the Asian and Pacific Islander Club – were finally able to complete four cultural murals, which were unveiled during a ceremony at the school Monday evening.
“Each mural you see here today was designed and created by the students who represent each club,” Naomi Doherty, the project facilitator, said to the crowd gathered in the Eureka High School cafeteria. “Art can be a way to share, spark conversation and inspire. But most importantly, art is a way to be seen.”
Doherty provided some background on the project – a DreamMaker project of the Ink People Center of the Arts, called Art Representation Culture (ARC) – and its journey to fruition. After the mural project was delayed by the pandemic, the project was again halted when the Eureka City Schools Board of Education voted to ban school murals altogether. The board’s controversial decision sparked opposition from students and the community, causing the ECS board to overturn the decision, allowing the project to move forward.
The four clubs each designed their murals with guidance and inspiration from local guest speakers and with help from a local artist selected by each club. The project received grant funding from the Humboldt Area Foundation, the Ink People and the Humboldt Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Sharonne Blanck, president of the Eureka Chapter of the NAACP also raised money through a GoFundMe to pay each of the artists that painted the murals.
Members from the clubs spoke during Monday’s ceremony, explaining the significance of their murals and how each design represents their heritage. In a joint speech, members of the Native American Club explained how their mural, painted by Native artist David Mata, represents the past and present struggles of Native peoples.
“Through this mural, we want everyone to know that we’re still here,” one club member said. “This mural shows who we are, unlike the history books we read today.”
“The ancestors in the background represent our past and our journey into the present,” another student added. “The images in the foreground symbolize obstacles and challenges we’ve overcome over the past few years and over history.”
Amaya Watson, president of the Black Students Union, explained that their mural, painted by local artist Mickey Montgomery, depicts silhouettes of Nina Simone, Martin Luther King Jr., Tupac Shakur and Kobe Bryant. “They are all Black figures that fought for Black empowerment, Black rights and paved the way for Black equity and Black excellence,” Watson said.
In the mural’s foreground, Watson added, are Charmaine and Josiah Lawson, who, Watson said, represent the legacy of the Black Student Movement and Black Lives Matter specific to Humboldt County. The image is also an acknowledgment of the David Josiah Lawson Memorial Scholarship, which provides funds to Eureka High students, Watson said.
Members of the LatinX Club said their mural, painted by local painter Jose Moreno, celebrates the diverse backgrounds of LatinX people, honors the hard work of their families, and aims to break stereotypes.
“We are breaking the stereotype that LatinX people aren’t educated and can’t succeed,” club member Ashley Lopez said.
“With this mural, we are encouraged to fight for a better future, to dream big and to celebrate our heritage,” another student added.
Following their speech, members of the LatinX Club performed a traditional Baile Folklorico dance for the crowd.
The Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Club closed out the ceremony, discussing the significance of their club’s colorful mural, painted by artist Josie Licavoli. The mural features several figures holding hands, representing the different Asian and Pacific Islander cultures coming together, the students said. The surrounding images of different foods, shows their love for sharing their different cultural traditions and dishes.
“Throughout history, our cultures have been colonized,” said Sidney Caampued, vice president of the AAPI Club. “Yet we took what they brought from the clothing wear, to food we eat, even the languages we speak, and made it into something beautiful, something of our own. By acknowledging our hard times, now and in history, we realize our strengths in ourselves and in our community.”
Scroll down for more photos from Monday’s mural unveiling ceremony.
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